The draft is a time of pure euphoria for both NFL teams and players alike. Hearing your name called from behind the podium means that you've reached the pinnacle of football and you're on your way to a career in the NFL. Phillip Thomas, last year's fourth round pick for the Redskins, got a cruel dose of reality when he found out how quickly that balloon could burst, suffering an injury in the very first preseason game, which put him on injured reserve for the season.
Washington took advantage of last season's draft to help stock up on defensive backfield help, selecting cornerback David Amerson in the second round, the aforementioned Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo in the sixth round. With Tanard Jackson still serving an indefinite suspension, and Thomas' injury, Rambo was thrust in to the starting lineup, where it was obvious that he wasn't ready for such a responsibility. The Redskins never recovered and suffered through one of the worst defensive efforts in NFL history.
According to all reports, Thomas is completely healed from the Lisfranc injury, and should be cleared when the Redskins break ground for camp. However, the safety position has been significantly upgraded with the signing of Ryan Clark, who expects to be slotted in as the starting free safety next to the incumbent strong safety Brandon Meriweather. Tanard Jackson has been reinstated by the league, and is a favorite of defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, but hasn't played football in two seasons. Finally, the team also has Rambo under contract, but isn't a lock to make the roster after a poor showing last season.
Where does that leave Thomas? Washington's defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, has been known to play the safety positions interchangeably with both positions requiring the ability to step in to the box and cover the deep ball. The Redskins would love to see Thomas supplant Meriweather as the starter but he's got to prove that he's able to shore up his tackling at the line of scrimmage. Coming out of Fresno State, the report on Thomas was that he excelled playing over the top, some attributing him the "ballhawk" label that make NFL scouts drool. He showed a little hesitation in meeting guys in run support when lined up deep, a part of Meriweather's game that he does very well.
Either way, the Redskins have to be excited about their prospects at the safety position compared to what the team was forced to trot out last season. If Washington is going to take the next step forward and return to form that made them NFC East champions, they're going to have to hope Thomas is capable of stepping up and playing a big time role on this defense.
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