Reed Doughty has it and touted rookies Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo want it.
The ‘it’ is a significant role at safety for the Redskins. The battle has been playing out in OTAs and will continue in the coming weeks.
It’s far too early to say who’s got the edge. But it’s not too early to say this: Doughty, an eight year pro, isn’t ready to concede anything.
“Never,” Doughty said. “One thing I’ve learned in this game is everybody brings something different to the table.”
After making a career-high 11 starts in 2011, Doughty stepped in for an injured Brandon Meriweather last season and started 10 games at strong safety – the same position Thomas, the team’s fourth round pick in April, is eyeing.
“We are competing against each other, but the truth is, if Phillip comes out here and plays lights out, he’s going to earn a job,” Doughty said. “He’s got some phenomenal talent. But he’s got to earn it.”
Doughty’s experience playing one of the game's most complex positions should serve him well, at least early on.
“There are some vet things I can do, being solid in a lot of different situations,” Doughty, said of his knowledge base and comfort level in the Redskins’ defense. “So he’s definitely going to have to come in and earn it.”
There are two more factors working in Doughty’s favor as he pursues a spot of the 53-man roster: the right foot that dogged him last season is on the mend and his impact on special teams could be even greater after the departure of Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander signed with the Cardinals in March.
Earlier this offseason, Doughty had a procedure on his toe similar to the one Roy Helu Jr. underwent in February.
“It’s obviously a process,” he said. “But I’ve been out here and I’ve practiced every single day. And it’s continuing to improve.”
He added: “I thought I played well through [the injury] last year but I felt if I could get it done early enough in the offseason, it could be even better this season. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’ll get there.”
On special teams, Doughty would seem to be a leading candidate to succeed Alexander as unit captain, an honor that’s determined by a vote of his teammates. Last season, Doughty recorded 16 tackles on kickoff and punt coverage teams, which ranked second only to Alexander’s 21.
“Lorenzo was the captain and a great leader, but I feel like I’ve been a leader for the past eight years,” Doughty said. “I feel like I’ve held down that role since my third or fourth year. Whether they vote to put the ‘C’ on my chest or not, I’m going to continue to do what I’ve done: I’m just going to go out there and make tackles.”
As for the battle at safety, Doughty doesn’t need to be reminded that he's got be good there, too. It’s obvious every time he returns to the sidelined and sees Thomas and Rambo watching, learning and improving.
“I like them both,” Doughty said. “They work hard. They have their confidence about them, but they are both respectful guys. They’re trying to learn. But you can tell they are both football players. They are playmakers. They’ve got a lot of talent. But they have a lot to of learning to do.”