ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s not the easiest way for a rookie to break in, facing an offense with explosive weapons that will force defenders to think on the move. The Philadelphia Eagles want to play fast. The Washington Redskins’ defense must counter with quick decisions, sure tackling and no big plays allowed.
They also must do so with two rookies playing key roles in the secondary. Safety Bacarri Rambo will start, and cornerback David Amerson will start if the Redskins open with three corners -- regardless, they'll likely use their nickel package quite a bit against Philadelphia.
The Eagles’ weapons, notably receiver DeSean Jackson, running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick, can test veteran secondaries. Add to it the speed at which Philadelphia wants to play, and it’s a tough task for any defensive back let alone a rookie.
"Any rookie starting, you're really not sure," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You're always hoping they can keep their composure."
Amerson knows he’ll probably face Jackson at some point. He also knows what he must do -- and sounds like a veteran in saying it.
“I’m thinking about taking away one thing. Just don’t let him beat me deep,” Amerson said. “Don’t give up the big play. We can snap again if he catches a seven-yard out. There’s no excuse for giving up a big play. You have to believe in your speed and play the deep ball. Simple as that.
“Everyone knows he’s a threat and everyone tries to do things to stop him, so you definitely have your hands full.”
Rambo will help call out the coverages, which could be stressful. But he’ll receive help from the cornerback on his side and the linebacker. One of those players could call out the coverage; as long as they all know what it is, that’s what counts.
But his big challenge will be to show, once again, that he can tackle in the open field. He learned lessons in the first two preseason games in this area, and didn’t miss any tackle attempts in the final two. The Eagles have multiple players who can hurt teams in the open field.
“Just take a shot and try to get them down,” he said, “so we get a chance to see another play and not allow them to get big plays.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said, “This is probably the biggest improvement he’s made. He is a ball hawk. He’s got great ball skills. He’ll have to be a great tackler this week.”