This offseason, as he recovered from ACL surgery, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was forced to put his excitement and confidence on the back burner as coaches and trainers eased the second-year passer back into action following an injury that used to end athletes' careers. Griffin would refer to his rehab as "Operation Patience."
Following Monday night's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles—just as Robert Griffin III took part in his own offseason mission—Redskins fans should engage in a similar plan. A suggested level of patience.
"Something needs to be done at the safety position." "Why did we release DeJon Gomes?" "The Redskins defense will be terrible again because they have ZERO talent at safety."
And the comments continue.
There's no denying Rambo's athleticism, talent and potential. Therefore, the fact that it hasn't yet translated to the NFL in Rambo's first four quarters of pro football isn't necessarily cause for concern.
Could Rambo turn out to be garbage? I suppose. Anything can happen. But after breaking down some of his biggest mistakes from Monday night, it seems fans just need to undertake an Operation Patience of their own—this time pertaining to their young safety.
For the first example, we'll refer to Brent Celek's touchdown late in the second quarter. Celek begins by splitting the inside linebackers to make his way up the seam, fading to the left a bit and away from Rambo.
A play-action fake by Michael Vick to running back LeSean McCoy brings Rambo and his momentum toward the line of scrimmage, giving Celek an extra step in splitting the safeties. This hitch in Rambo's coverage is all it takes for him to come up late in getting to a pass in Celek's direction down around the goal line.
Celek gets past the linebackers' zone and Rambo is too late getting over to make a play on the ball or keep the tight end from pulling it in. One could argue Rambo has poor position or tardiness on the route, but it seems as if the play-fake was all Rambo needed to keep himself out of the play.
A major critique of Rambo's play so far has been his hesitation and tentativeness in one-on-one situations. At 6'0", 211 pounds, Rambo has the bulk and physique to get a body on guys and take them down. But indecisiveness at the point of attack is a problem we saw throughout the preseason and through the first week of the season.
Here we see Rambo playing single-high with the Redskins' expecting run. LeSean McCoy takes a handoff to the left.
The Eagles do a good job of opening lanes for McCoy, who has a solid alley to break open the run. You can see nose tackle Barry Cofield coming over from the right to try and wrap up McCoy at an angle.
Rambo, meanwhile, is squaring his opponent and preparing to make the tackle. The safety has good position for the most obvious hole, plus a decent angle if McCoy would elect to cut it farther right.
Cofield (now on the turf) gets two hands on McCoy's lower half, which is enough to slow him down, but not enough to bring him down. Despite Rambo's decent starting position, he can't bring down McCoy either. He isn't decisive in his tackle and the slight juke from McCoy leaves Rambo's momentum pushing the safety in the wrong direction. The mishap leads to a first down on 3rd-and-2.
This next example brings us to the early third quarter for McCoy's touchdown run. Somewhat pairing with Rambo's hesitancy at the point of contact, we haven't seen him take many good angles when preparing to make a tackle on a guy at decent or full speed.
Here the Eagles offensive line pushes right to open a sizable cutback lane for McCoy to spring through. Rambo is playing deep with E.J. Biggers alongside.
McCoy takes the handoff right, forcing those on the defense who are not engaged in blocks to shade to that side. Because the Eagles do a good job of sustaining blocks, the cutback lane for McCoy is gaping.
Meanwhile, Rambo jumps all over McCoy's misdirection, seemingly looking to fill either an outside run or a run right off center.
McCoy breaks back hard and Rambo's momentum puts him well behind the running back's speed. The middle of the field widens, McCoy's lane becomes even bigger, and suddenly one of the most agile runners in the league is at the Redskins' last line of defense.
Rambo would attempt to recover, but when you're dealing with LeSean McCoy, it's too late.
After a bad missed tackle by Biggers, McCoy would kick on the burners and take it to the house for a score.
Bad angle? Sure. But it's correctable. Rambo will better learn his opponents as time goes on. He'll understand that cutback lanes for a guy like McCoy can be lethal, and that perhaps allowing linebacker Perry Riley to handle the right side run is a better option if it means he defends against the gaping cutback lanes.
And to note, Biggers did nothing to help on this play. Regardless of Rambo's pursuit, this play shouldn't have gone for six.
Here is another example of Rambo's faltering at the point of charge. Here we see him late in the third quarter playing deep. At this point, the Eagles offense has changed tempo, electing to keep the ball on the ground.
McCoy receives the handoff and begins center, where the Redskins defense does a good job sealing off lanes. As the shifty runner that he is, McCoy spins—turning his back to the line of scrimmage—and looking to bounce it outside and extend the play.
Before McCoy can even get 180 degrees, Rambo has come down into the box and has good position on bringing the running back down at or near the line of scrimmage.
But as we've seen before, Rambo takes yet another bad angle, allowing his momentum to carry him past McCoy as he bounces to the safety's right and allows an Eagles first down.
For the last example, we'll look at a 2nd-and-3 play early in the fourth quarter to demonstrate yet another timid approach from Rambo. But on this play, it's not the agile and shifty LeSean McCoy taking the carry, but instead the 33-year-old quarterback, Michael Vick.
At the snap, McCoy crosses in front of Vick, and despite no physical bluff to McCoy, it's enough play-fake to make the entire Redskins defensive line bite, as well as the linebackers. Vick then looks off briefly to DeSean Jackson who sets up a bubble screen.
The play works perfectly due to the sell of the play-fake. E.J. Biggers comes down to defend Jackson on the screen and Vick realizes the canyon of a hole made to the left side of the line.
Rambo once again comes down into the box and has his opponent one-on-one, filling the lane as best he can. And while Michael Vick may not be the Michael Vick he once was, he's still cagey enough to make guys miss—this is not a simple tackle for Rambo.
But Rambo doesn't even give himself a chance. Whether he underestimates Vick's ability to change direction, or simply clenches to one side and fails to let go, his momentum once again carries him out of the runner's way and Vick picks up an extra 32 yards.
Again, we see Rambo have a guy in his sights at the line of scrimmage, yet he doesn't leave his feet to even attempt a tackle.
I'm sure Rambo hears about plays like these all week as the Redskins prepare for yet another tough matchup against a high-powered Green Bay Packers offense. But the key isn't to harp on the rookie's blunders through four preseason games and four quarters of regular-season action.
Instead, it's about seeing how Rambo learns from those mistakes, to see how he takes to coaching. Let's see if more experience, more reps and further development as a football brain allow him to overcome the reasonable learning curve set forth in his rookie season.
Rambo has the potential to be a good safety, but he's in need of some shaping. His natural athletic ability and nose for the football are great starting points. Learning his opponents, better understanding his angles and evolving from a "hitter" into a "tackler" are where he needs to improve.