Washington selected Amerson with its first pick of the draft (51st overall) with the hope that the North Carolina State product can help improve a defense that ranked 30th against the pass last season. The team also selected safeties Phillip Thomas (Fresno State) and Bacarri Rambo (Georgia) in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively.
“I’m excited to get there and just start familiarizing myself with the playbook and the place that I’m going to be for the next stage of my life,” Amerson said in a phone interview. “I don’t really know what to expect, to be honest with you. I know the defense is similar to what we did in college. They go after turnovers. I know DeAngelo Hall is a DB I’ve always looked up to, and I’m really interested in working with him and learning from him.”
Amerson led the nation with 13 interceptions in 2011, and he added another five last season. He knows that the Redskins drafted him because of that playmaking ability and his impressive size (6 feet 1, 205 pounds) and speed (4.35-second 40-yard dash). He also knows that the level of competition just kicked up another notch and that he will have to spend hours studying opponents if he wants to duplicate his success from college.
But Amerson said he is up to the challenge.
“I wouldn’t say I feel too much pressure. Pressure is nothing new. I’ve been feeling it for a while now,” he said. “But I know they’re counting on me and some other guys to help them get better, and I’m looking forward to doing that. I’m a pretty quick learner. I pick things up quickly. I can learn whether it’s hand-to-hand or just watching on a board. . . . I’d rather be thrown to the fire. That’s the best way for me to learn.”
The Redskins anticipate initially grooming Amerson to play on the outside and sharing the field with Hall and fellow starter Josh Wilson, one of whom presumably would play nickelback and cover the opposing slot receiver.
“The first thing we want to do is see if he can play outside because that’s the toughest position to play,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “If you can find that guy, you are in pretty good shape. I think he can play nickel, but we are looking at him as an outside corner, and we’ll adjust some other players on the inside.”
In addition to Amerson and the safety tandem of Thomas and Rambo, Washington coaches will get the opportunity to work with tight end Jordan Reed (Florida, third round), running backs Chris Thompson (Florida State, fifth) and Jawan Jamison (Rutgers, seventh) and outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins (Florida State, fifth).
“I definitely think Redskins fans should be excited about this draft class,” Amerson said. “We’re all looking forward to getting out there. It’s a lot of talent, and we’ll see what happens. But it’s definitely [one] they can be excited about.”
Joining the draft picks will be 12 undrafted free agents who signed contracts, including Utah center Tevita Stevens, Florida tackle Xavier Nixon, UAB inside linebacker Marvin Burdett and wide receivers Jason Thompson of New Haven, Nick Williams of Connecticut and Chip Reeves of Troy.
McNeese State cornerback Seth Thomas, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, Michigan guard Ricky Barnum and Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin are among a group of players expected to attend the camp as unsigned tryout prospects.