RICHMOND — The Redskins in 2012 got a pretty nice offensive boost from a player they took with their first pick in the draft and a player they were able to snag in the sixth round. You've probably heard of them by now — quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris.
If they can get the same thing on the other side in 2013, the season could end up being pretty good.
It's hard to spend much time around the Redskins training camp without noticing or hearing about rookie cornerback David Amerson and rookie free safety Bacarri Rambo. "If the season started today, both of them would be starting," veteran linebacker London Fletcher said.
Amerson, from N.C. State, was taken with the 51st pick in the draft. OK, so that's 49 spots lower than Griffin went. He's still the team's first pick (and he didn't cost the Skins first-rounders for the next two years). Rambo, from Georgia, was taken in the sixth round.
The offense, given good health from Griffin after his offseason knee surgery, ought to be really good. Early in training camp, receiver Pierre Garcon even went so far as to say it could be the best offense ever. That's a stretch, but it should be awfully good.
The other side needed more help and it looks like the defense is getting that. There's a lot to like about the defense. Brian Orakpo returns from a pectoral injury and, along with Ryan Kerrigan, gives the Skins a formidable pair of outside linebackers. Fletcher's veteran presence inside is invaluable.
But for the defense to make another step forward, Amerson and Rambo (is that a great name or what?) are going to have to play big parts. Maybe not Griffin/Morris-level parts, but not far from that.
Are they up to that?
"They're extremely vital guys right now," Fletcher said. "You see the playmaking skills in both the guys. They do a good job in the classroom, a good job of learning. They're not making the same mistakes twice. There's natural talent. Amerson has size, speed, physicality. He's a ball hawk. Same with Bacarri. He's a playmaker on the back end."
They wouldn't be defensive backs if they had any doubts about their ability to step right into an NFL defense.
"You have to have confidence, you have to have the swagger about yourself. I think I have that right now," Rambo said. "They know what I'm capable of and I know what I'm capable of. I work hard.
"They saw something they like, so I'm running with the [first-team defense]. I'm very comfortable. We ran the same defensive scheme at [Georgia], so I just had to learn the terminology and everything fell into place."
Said Amerson, "We're looking forward to bringing what we can to the defense. It's no pressure or anything. The coaches have confidence in me as well as my teammates. The biggest thing is coming to a whole new defense. There's a lot you got to know. As you get comfortable with it, the same starts to flow and football's just football. I'm getting there."
The Redskins forced 30 turnovers last season, 21 through interceptions and nine with fumble recoveries. The interception total tied for third in the NFL and they would like to see it get even higher this season. Rambo had 11 interceptions his final two seasons at Georgia. Amerson had 13 interceptions in 2011, tied for the second-most in a single season.
"There's no added pressure on us," Rambo said. "We just have to go out there and do what we do best. We have to go out there and handle our business."
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett faced the media for the only time this preseason Thursday and he sounded almost giddy about the development of his group. Hard to imagine a coordinator anywhere not sounding that way at this stage. The first question of the session concerned the team's rookie draft picks, a group that also includes linebacker Brandon Jenkins and now-injured safety Phillip Thomas.
Their progress — Amerson, Rambo and Thomas all started the preseason opener — is one reason for Haslett's optimism.
"I think they're all kind of right on course," Haslett said. "We'll see how they go the next couple of weeks and then we'll decide how we're going to play the for the opener."
The bar is pretty high for Amerson and Rambo after what Griffin and Morris did last season.
Griffin was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. If he hadn't been, the award might have gone to Morris. All he did was rush for 1,613 yards, which was second-most in the league behind Adrian Peterson's 2,097.
If Rambo or Amerson is the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the other is in the conversation, Redskins fans are going to have good reason to be as happy as Haslett is now.
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