Like Rambo, Redskins a work in progress

Like Rambo, Redskins a work in progress
August 9, 2013, 9:00 am
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Chase Minnifield speaks on his preseason debut

NASHVILLE—The Redskins’ 22-21 victory over the Titans produced two overarching themes: Kirk Cousins appears to be right on schedule and the team’s trio of rookie defensive backs, while full of promise, remain a work in progress.

Let’s start with Cousins. 

Earlier in the week, the second-year quarterback said Thursday night’s game would be the moment the world finds out “who is able to rise to the occasion and who maybe backs away” and added that “nobody has a bigger stage than the quarterback.”

Cousins took only 13 snaps at LP Field, but he managed to own that stage, completing 6 of 7 pass attempts for 52 yards and a touchdown, including a perfect 4 of 4 on the scoring drive.

Nothing looked forced (in 2012, Cousins tossed three interceptions on 48 pass attempts) and, just as important, he appeared calm, collected and in complete control. Indeed, the game appears to have slowed down for the 24-year-old after a full offseason of first-team reps.

“I’ve been in a constant growing process where I got comfortable through OTAs and minicamp, then I got more comfortable now in the first two weeks of training camp,” he said. “I’m sure when I talk to you after the Pittsburgh game, I’ll be even more comfortable.”

But you know who really should be feeling secure right now? The Redskins.

If Robert Griffin III isn’t ready to start the season, there’s no longer any doubt that Coach Mike Shanahan and Co. could build a game plan around Cousins and win a game or three if necessary.

“He’s been impressive from the time he got here,” Shanahan said. “He’s a student of the game and has a lot of God-given talent. An extremely great guy that works extremely hard.”

As for the rookie DBs, well, that was a more of a mixed bag. The Redskins got a glimpse of what their future secondary could look like with cornerback David Amerson and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas on the field for the first defensive snap. But they also walked away knowing that the future isn’t Week 1 against the Eagles.

First, the good: Amerson was maybe two steps away from intercepting Jake Locker on the first NFL pass he defended, after he closed quickly on Titans wide out Kenny Britt and used his long reach to tip the pass. On 27 snaps, Amerson also recorded three tackles.

Rambo, on the other hand, can’t wait for a chance to redeem himself next week against the Steelers. 

By now, you’ve probably seen a replay of Chris Johnson’s 58-yard touchdown sprint that was highlighted by his outside-inside juke of Rambo in the open field. If you haven’t, stop reading, find the highlight, and come right back. 

To be completely fair, I’m not sure how many veteran safeties would have stopped Johnson on that play. A savvy vet, however, might have managed to dive and get a piece of the Titans running back.

Rambo didn’t. And, as a result, he learned one of the most humbling lessons of his career just handful of plays into it.

“They said, that’s Chris Johnson, just take a shot,” Rambo said, asked what his teammates and coaches told him on the sideline. “Don’t break down on it, just go and try to take a shot and put your body on him and try to trip him up or something. It happens I’m just going to learn from it. 

Rambo also was flagged 15 yards for shoving Shonn Greene out of bounds in the end zone after Greene’s 19-yard touchdown run. Rambo was likely frustrated after taking a poor angle in pursuit.

Yeah, it’s just one exhibition contest. And yeah, Rambo has three more games to tighten up. But he’s the only rookie the Redskins have penciled in as starter. So his development is significantly more important in the short term.

What I found more concerning than Rambo’s performance, though, was Thomas’ injury. The strong safety already lost a week of the team’s offseason program because of Fresno State’s graduation. Now, after suffering a mid-foot sprain on his seventh NFL snap, it’s possible he’ll be dealt another setback. He left Tennessee sporting a walking boot on his left foot and facing another round of exams Friday.

As Shanahan said afterward, we saw some good and some bad in Music City. But the overall picture is encouraging as the team returns to Richmond for Week 3 of camp.

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