If the Washington Redskins manage to turn around their season from here, they will be able to look back on the play rookie cornerback David Amerson made in Oakland in their most recent game as the springboard. Amerson’s interception and touchdown sprint got the Redskins back in contention in a game they trailed by 14 points, putting them on their way to their first victory of the season after an 0-3 start.
Now, as they return from the bye week and prepare to play Sunday night at Dallas, the Redskins hope Amerson continues to add polish and consistency to his game so he develops into a steady, reliable cornerback as well as a big-play contributor.
“I think he’s much improved,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday at Redskins Park. “I think he’s much improved from the first two games. I think he’s got more confidence in what he’s doing. He made the nice play against the Raiders for the touchdown. But he has that ability to do that all the time. Being a young guy . . . I think his future is bright ahead of him.”
The Redskins used the NFL draft in April to try to remake their secondary after ranking 30th in the NFL against the pass last season. Amerson was a second-round pick out of North Carolina State. The team also selected two safeties, taking Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas in the fourth round and Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo in the sixth.
It appears at this point that only Amerson will make a significant impact as a rookie. Thomas is on the injured reserve list after suffering a Lisfranc injury during the preseason. Rambo opened the season as a starter but quickly lost his starting job and now is attempting to work his way back into the playing rotation.
But Amerson has stepped right in alongside cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. He has had his rookie-year learning experiences, and secondary coach Raheem Morris said last week during that Amerson’s performance so far has been a mixed bag.
“We’re talking about a young playmaker that has the ability to go out there and make some plays,” Morris said. “But he’s also made some mistakes. But I’m so happy that he’s made those mistakes and has been able to deal with them. When you play that position, it comes with the territory. You don’t necessarily walk onto the field and become Darrelle Revis overnight. You’ve got to put time in and work at it. And him having some success last game — getting a pick-six and him having to come up and be physical and do some things he was never asked to do before — it’s those things I’m most proud about.”
Amerson said he believes he is settling in.
“I’m definitely starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Amerson said. “I keep learning from every game. The more experience you get, the better you get. It’s a process.”
Amerson’s touchdown on a 45-yard return came with the Redskins trailing the Raiders 14-3. The Redskins went on to score a pair of second-half touchdowns on offense to win, 24-14.
“Any time you get a touchdown, you not only get an interception but get a touchdown out of it, it’s huge on defense,” Wilson said this week. “You’re changing the game instantaneously. It was huge, man. It definitely gave us a boost. It definitely made us excited and got us to another level.”
The interception came against a backup quarterback, Matt Flynn, who since has been released by the Raiders. Things get tougher for the Redskins this weekend as they face Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on the heels of his 506-yard, five-touchdown passing performance Sunday in a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Amerson said this week he expects to remain a target for opposing quarterbacks.
“I definitely expect more people to keep coming at me,” Amerson said. “It’s the nature of the business, especially at my position, me being a rookie. It’s just something I’m prepared for.”
But if Amerson continues to be the difference-maker he was against the Raiders while finding ways to limit his mistakes, opponents undoubtedly would choose to look and throw in other directions. Wilson said he has been impressed by Amerson’s eagerness to learn.
“He’s taking everything in, listening to every little bit of wisdom that D. Hall, myself, Brandon [Meriweather], E.J. [Biggers] and the coaches can give him,” Wilson said. “He’s taking it in stride.”