David Amerson appears poised to take next step in his development

David Amerson recorded two interceptions as a rookie, but struggled with consistency. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

David Amerson recorded two interceptions as a rookie, but struggled with consistency. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

As the Washington Redskins entered free agency this offseason, many expected that cornerback would rank high on their shopping list after their secondary in 2013 ranked among one of the worst in the league.

The team re-signed DeAngelo Hall, who turned in one of the finest seasons of his career. It let the other starting corner, Josh Wilson, depart via free agency, and he signed with the Falcons. Washington added veteran Tracy Porter to compete at nickelback. But officials opted to pass on high profile – and high-priced – targets like Aqib Talib, Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Sam Shields and Captain Munnerlyn. They did so because they believed that 2013 second-round pick David Amerson this season is ready to take over at the starting spot opposite Hall, and excel at the job.

The team doesn’t play its first preseason game until Aug. 7, but already – with his play this offseason – Amerson has confirmed to the team’s decision-makers that he is indeed poised to take his game to another level.

Amerson had his share of ups and downs as a rookie as he served as third corner for Washington. He recorded 48 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and a forced fumble. But he also struggled with recognition at times, and that led to blown coverages and big plays yielded. Amerson had inconsistencies in run defense as well.

But with a full season under his belt and an offseason to reflect and study his performances, coaches say Amerson’s grasp and understanding of the game is “like night and day.”

Assessing his own growth, Amerson said, “I feel pretty good. I think anytime you get comfortable in a system and you start to know a little bit more, you start moving a little faster and you start picking up the speed of things. So I feel pretty good this year.”

Said Hall, “It’s his mind-set. Having been out there on the field, he now knows he can do it. It’s not a thing of ‘Can I play on this level?’ He’s done it, he’s made plays and he’s given up plays. He knows what he needs to focus on and like I said, he’s rose to the occasion and now he’s out there grinding.”

Perhaps no one at Redskins Park is more pleased with Amerson’s development than Hall. Last season he drew the responsibility of covering the opposing No. 1 receivers. He relished the challenge, but did describe it as mentally and physically draining, and that at times, he wished he could have shared the task with a teammate here and there.

Hall believes that Amerson is now capable of helping out in this capacity.

“I told him my goal was to not have to follow guys all the time this season and that I’d be on his butt all offseason and he’s rose to the occasion,” the 30-year-old Hall said with a laugh. He’s been 1-2 in every sprint, every other competition we’ve had, he’s whooping me and he’s whooping a lot of other guys. We always joked about how cool he is, and kinda care-free. But he’s getting that cool out of his game and he’s working, so I’m looking for him to have a hell of a year this year.”

Amerson leaned heavily on Hall for guidance during his rookie year, and he looks forward to repaying the wily veteran by delivering on the field this season.

“I know he has a lot of confidence in me on the other side. He’s kind of like a mentor guy,” Amerson said. “I’ve learned everything from him and take what I can and just want to be equally matched so when the season comes, we’re a tough matchup on both sides.”

Amerson also wants to live up to the expectations of Redskins coaches and team officials, who went with him as the starter over a big-name free agent.

“It gives me a lot of confidence. It adds onto the confidence I already have. Seeing the coaches believe in me, it just motivates me to go out here, work hard, really put the time in and prepare myself to give it all I got this season and be the guy they’re looking for.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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