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By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
Twenty questions No. 3—Who will start at free safety?
The 2013 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 20 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
The Redskins are bringing back 21 of the 22 starters that helped lead them to the NFC East crown last season. The one starter not retained? Free safety Madieu Williams. The void was addressed in April’s draft, when the team used its fourth round pick on Phillip Thomas and its sixth round selection on Bacarri Rambo. Both players showed flashes of their promise in OTAs and minicamp, but it remains unclear if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is prepared to hand over one of the game’s most complex positions to a rookie.
Tarik El-Bashir: Gonna be honest here, this might be toughest question to answer because there are so many moving parts. But here’s my best guess: Assuming Brandon Meriweather returns 100-percent from ACL surgery, he’ll be one of the starters. At the other position, it wouldn’t surprise me if Haslett turns to versatile eight-year pro Reed Doughty to bridge the gap until either Thomas or Rambo is ready. That time might arrive in the preseason. It might be Week 4. We do know this: Meriweather can play either safety spot and, for the time being, Thomas is viewed as a strong safety while Rambo is seen as more comfortable at free. Judging from Haslett’s comments last month, it sounds as though he’s expecting both to contribute sooner rather than later. So I’m going with a Meriweather-Doughty tandem to start the season, with one of the rookies replacing Doughty at some point.
Rich Tandler: During minicamp, Haslett said that he thought that one rookie defensive back would end up starting. Given the situation with returning starters noted above, I suspect that Haz and the rest of the coaches want Bacarri Rambo ready to start at free safety. He has four years a Georgia under his belt and if playing that much in the SEC pressure cooker doesn’t get a rookie NFL ready, nothing will. On top of that, although any position on the Redskins’ defense requires a lot of learning, free safety is more of an instinctive position than most and with hard work Rambo could have sufficient mastery to be able to start. Even if Doughty goes Week 1, Rambo should be in place before the leaves start to turn.
Upcoming on 20 questions
- Question 1 Wednesday: Will RG3 play in all 16 (or more) games?