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Bacarri Rambo Shooting For Starting Spot

The sixth-round draft pick from Georgia has been the first-team free safety since training camp opened, and he hopes to carry that into a starting role when the preseason ends.

BY ZAC BOYER

RICHMOND – If Bacarri Rambo had any desire early in training camp to share the news of his first-team responsibilities with his family back home in Georgia, Raheem Morris cautioned him against doing so.

Rambo

There would be plays that would humble and even humiliate the Redskins’ rookie free safety. Take, for example, his missed open-field tackle on Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson in the preseason opener 10 days ago.

“I told him, ‘Don’t call home to your mom and tell her [you’re] the guy, because you’ve gotta play the games,’” Morris said. “And then you’ve gotta give her another call before Philly.”

Rambo, a sixth-round draft pick, has taken every snap with the starters since training camp opened on July 25. If he gets his way – and it appears likely he will – he’ll be the first rookie in more than 30 years to begin the season as the Redskins’ starting free safety Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

He’ll be in that role again Monday night when the Redskins open the home portion of their preseason schedule with a nationally televised “Monday Night Football” contest against the Steelers at FedEx Field.

Rambo’s grasp on that position demonstrates the realization of a goal he set at the end of offseason workouts in June. He prides himself on being a quick learner, and when he arrived for the start of his first preseason almost a month ago, he knew every call, every responsibility and every assignment in the Redskins’ defense.

“I feel like this is the best organization I could have gotten drafted to,” Rambo said. “I just learned to be mentally ready. I was working on being in shape and everything, but it’s more mental. I just studied in my playbook and just learned things in the film room and just carried it on the field.”

Rambo was one of three rookie defensive backs to start against the Titans on Aug. 8, with cornerback David Amerson and strong safety Phillip Thomas also on the field as Josh Wilson and Brandon Meriweather sat out to rest.

Midway through the first quarter, with the Titans facing first down from their own 42-yard line, Johnson took the ball from quarterback Jake Locker and ran to his left. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was too far upfield, and he lunged for Johnson but missed the tackle.

That left Rambo, playing the deep middle, as the Redskins’ last line of defense. He cautiously approached Johnson, who needed just two quick stutter steps and a cut inside to turn Rambo around at Washington’s 47-yard line. Off the running back went, 58 yards in total for a touchdown.

Rambo dreaded watching that play on film, knowing the embarrassment he’d feel afterward. Morris, though, emphasized to Rambo the importance of moments like those; after all, that’s what the preseason is for, especially as a rookie.

“He’s got open field on a great player in Chris Johnson, and he’ll have something to learn from to bring him back down,” Morris said. “Those are the things you have to have happen to young players to teach those guys what they’ve got to do.”

Rambo played 27 snaps in the game against the Titans, second only among projected starters to defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. He lasted much of the first half, and because Mike Shanahan typically keeps the top units in the second preseason game until halftime, Rambo could see extended snaps again tonight.

If he plays well, only then can he start thinking about telling his mother, Brenda, he could be on the field quite a bit this fall.

“I never called her,” Rambo said. “She called and asked me how I was doing, but other than that, I haven’t told her anything. But I’m doing good.”

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