Rookie report: Bacarri Rambo

The rookie report continues, now focusing on sixth-round draft pick Bacarri Rambo, who starred at Georgia and was the opening-game starter for the Redskins. He lasted two games in that role and started once more the rest of the season and was typically a third or fourth safety thereafter.

Stats: Rambo finished with 43 combined tackles in 11 games. He started three games and was inactive in four.

Highlight: This is a tough one because Rambo didn’t make any big plays. No forced fumbles. No interceptions. No fumble recoveries. He did finish with nine tackles in a reserve role at Denver in what was clearly his best game.

What I liked: How he responded in his first lengthy action at Denver since being benched earlier in the season. Rambo played probably his best game of the year, though even in that one there were times he was too focused on shoulder hits rather than good tackles. But they worked in this game. Rambo played more decisively and aggressively against the Broncos than in any other game. I liked that he seemed to know his assignments well. One thing that jumped out at me in training camp practices was how rarely he would be corrected for positioning. There were a couple times during the season where that appeared to be an issue, but overall his mistakes did not seem to be mental one’s. He did learn how to take on crackback blocks and get off to make the tackle. He failed to do so against Green Bay, keeping his eyes on the blocker and failing to see the running back burst by him en route to a touchdown. But Rambo did learn to do this better and, against Denver, it showed.

What I didn’t: It wasn’t just the missed tackles, it was the inability to show much improvement from the first game to the last (though in some ways he was better in the opener against Philadelphia than he was late in the year against Kansas City). After the Denver game I wondered if things might change, but all you need to do is look at the Kansas City game for proof that it really never did. Too many attempts to shoulder tackle – and they rarely, if ever worked. On consecutive plays against the Chiefs he tried to tackle Jamaal Charles on a run up the middle and then on a swing pass to the outside by using his right shoulder, while perpendicular to him. Had no chance. The disappointing part was that he did not improve in this area and also did not play in the next three games. He earned the demotion. He did not make any plays that jumped out. I also didn’t like that he was not a bigger part of special teams. That’s inexcusable for a sixth-round safety. It did not help that he really didn’t win the job as much as landed it by default, perhaps creating a false sense of where he was at as a player. He seems to be a smart player, so perhaps he’ll learn a lot from this year. If not …

Projection: It’s hard to look at the tape and see him as anything more than a backup in the future. I know he was a playmaker in college, but he didn’t show that he could be in the NFL – didn’t see him making plays in camp, in the preseason or during the season. At this point, I’d want to see him excel on special teams first. Show some hunger to make plays. As a sixth-round pick, that’s the spot he should be in; Rambo was pressed into a starting job because of organizational failures, not his own performance. That’s not his fault. In fairness to him, had the Redskins solved their safety issue before he arrived, Rambo would never have played so soon. But to get back there he has to earn it. Heck, if he doesn’t improve on special teams, his roster spot should be in jeopardy, considering he’ll likely be a backup in 2014. You can’t be a backup safety and not help on special teams.