Everyone at Redskins Park is excited about the talent of the Redskins’ two young safeties they drafted in April’s draft. Mike Shanahan has talked about how impressed he is by both Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, as have defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondaries coach Raheem Morris. The media has also had nothing but good things to say about each player from the rookie mini-camp in April to the OTA’s and full mini-camp’s of the last two months. With the Redskins Training Camp now less than two weeks away, I thought it’d be a good time to look at the two rookies who will be two of the most analyzed players throughout this years training camp and preseason.
Because safety has been one of the weakest positions on the team since Mike Shanahan has become head coach, and was the weakest position on the team last season, it had to be addressed via the draft. Neither Phillip Thomas nor Bacarri Rambo were drafted that highly — 4th and 6th round respectively — but both have been talked about at length by the coaching staff to the media as possibly seeing significant playing time this season.
The defensive coaching staff has affirmed many draft scouts analysis of Thomas’ skill-set that he is a better fit at strong safety, rather than at free safety, but he still has the ability to play both safety positions.
On the flip side, the defensive coaching staff has affirmed many draft scouts analysis that Rambo’s skill-set is that of a free safety, but again he has the ability to play both safety positions.
Currently, the two rookies are learning both positions because in the Redskins defense both safety spots are interchangeable positions depending on offense’s shift alignments and motions from side to side.
Defensive Backs coach Raheem Morris said on his college film that Phillip Thomas showed up as a natural in-the-box player. He played in a similar system at Fresno State as their SS so he has 5 years of learning a scheme similar to the Redskins current defense. It shows up on the practice field because Thomas already knows where he needs to line up, the shifts he needs to make depending on offensive shift alignments and his keys as a strong safety. Will that give him the advantage needed to become the starter?
While Thomas is best around the line of scrimmage, covering running backs in the flat, covering tight ends, blitzing, and filling running lanes like an extra line backer, he also has played as a single high safety and made plays in deep coverage.
Morris described Bacarri Rambo as a player with great range in deep coverage who could cover a field and a half. While at Georgia, Rambo got to play against the best in all of college football and on film his range and play recognition showed up often as he constantly had plays on the ball. While Thomas benefited from his college coaches studying and running virtually the same system that the Redskins run, Rambo actually did Thomas one better. One of Rambo’s defensive coaches at Georgia was Redskins former defensive assistant coach, Kirk Olivadotti, who teaches Georgia’s defense parts of the Redskins cover-2 coverage schemes.
Needless to say, each rookie safety seems to be more prepared than any other Redskin rookie to have an immediate impact. Both Haslett and Morris have said that they are two of the most prepared rookies for the NFL that they have ever coached.
As we all know, looking good in rookie mini-camp, OTA’s and full mini-camp is a great thing but the next stage will be more telling of how much we see each rookie safety play this year. So far, Thomas and Rambo have done well in learning the defense, but training camp and preseason will test whether they are able to physically execute what they’ve learned on the field at full speed. These rookie safeties will definitely be two of the most closely watched players in the month of August because both have a great opportunity to earn a starting position moving out of camp.
My question to Redskins Nation is: