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The Redskins expect the young defensive back to contend for a starting job -- once he makes it through training camp.
Associated Press | File May
Redskins rookie Phillip Thomas had eight interceptions at Fresno State in 2012.
Associated Press | File May
Rookie Phillip Thomas has impressed his Redskins coaches.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Phillip Thomas will sing, dance or karaoke to get through the inevitable rookie hazing that takes place during NFL training camp.
On the field, Thomas plans to do whatever is asked, and more.
The 6-foot, 210-pound defensive back can play both safety positions, spots where the Redskins felt the need to upgrade.
“When you’re down in the box [strong safety], there’s a lot more communicating going on,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to communicate with your [cornerback], the outside and inside linebackers. You’ve got to know your run fits, and you’ve got to be smart about whatever you’re doing.
“When you’re in the high hole [free safety] you’re in space so you’ve got to make up ground, you’ve got to get back there deep and protect your corners or protect your safety that’s in man [coverage].”
Thomas was a fourth-round draft choice out of Fresno State. The Redskins liked him because he creates turnovers. Thomas finished with 13 interceptions at Fresno State, but eight came in the 2012 season. He forced four fumbles in 2012 and had one fumble recovery.
His numbers might have been better had he not missed the entire 2011 season. He suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle three days before the season-opening game.
“He does a great job adjusting to the ball,” said Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. “He had a lot of interceptions. That was one key. He’s not afraid to hit people. He would support the run.
“We met with him, and he was very quick mentally. He played in a system in college that is very similar to what we do here. We think he’ll adjust very quickly to our system.”
Thomas will open training camp as a strong safety. But wherever he is on the field, he hopes to be around the ball.
“The important thing about turnovers is having the mindset to get the ball, whether it’s in the air or on the ground” he said. “I want to create turnovers. I want to be a game changer.
“When you’re making a tackle, you’ve got to go for the strip. When it’s in the air, you’ve got to feel like it’s yours every time. That’s the mindset I have.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett thinks Thomas or Bacarri Rambo, also a rookie, will compete for a starting job. Rambo is working at free safety.
Haslett, however, is reluctant to consider two rookies starting at the safety spots.
“Number one, there’s the complexity of the defenses,” Haslett said. “The number of defenses we have in, including zones and blitzes, means this is not the easiest defense to learn.
“And they’ve got to play two positions. It’s just going to take some reps. They’re going to need time. But I think as they get more time in training camp, they’ll start to shine.”
Training camp also is when Thomas might be asked to shine as a singer. He’s fine with that, as long as he doesn’t have to sing, play the run or defend passes all at once.
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