- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The lessons Josh Wilson learned throughout his career let you know one thing: It takes time to learn how to play corner in the NFL. And it’s often because of the so-called little things.
For starters, you have to get used to facing quarterbacks of the caliber you rarely saw in college.
“In college you may have that second to look back and then the ball’s here,” Wilson said. “In the NFL, that ball will just be thrown and will be right on the outside shoulder where it’s supposed to be. In college it could be anywhere. You might get a bad ball 50 percent of the time. In the NFL, going against Aaron Rodgers, 99 percent of the time the ball will be where it’s supposed to be.”
And then you have to learn how receivers alert you that the ball is coming. Some receivers’ eyes provide the clue; for others it’s their hands. But it’s not always that easy. Wilson learned that facing certain veterans.
“Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, their eyes [didn’t] change,” Wilson said. “Torry’s hands didn’t go up until the ball is there. He’ll wait, he’ll wait and that ball is right there and then he’ll throw his hands up. It’s hard.”
Which is why he gives Redskins rookie corner David Amerson credit for being in position to play as a rookie. There are plenty of lessons to be learned. (One of which was how to play the proper leverage; against Green Bay, on the play in which Randall Cobb barely stepped out of bounds, Amerson could not get off his block and, just as bad, lost outside contain. It was not good.) Anyway, here are two things Amerson learned in coverage last week:
1. Play the defense. Amerson said the coaches wanted him to play outside leverage all game and that’s what he was doing. Until he played Jordy Nelson with inside leverage, getting beat for a 37-yard catch and being flagged for pass interference.
“Little things will get you in trouble if you fall off for one second,” Amerson said. “I was [playing outside leverage] and I was killing it and killing him and the one time I did slide to inside leverage, that’s when they threw the fade on me. After I was killing him pretty much all game one little mistake like that and it’s a 30-yard gain.”
Wilson’s take: “You have to be technique-sound. You can’t get caught in bad leverage because in this league great quarterbacks will take advantage of it.”
2. Keep your eyes on your work. Jones beat Amerson with a double move in man coverage. The problem: When Jones made his first move, Amerson looked back at the quarterback. That’s a no-no. Double moves will get every corner on occasion, but in this case Amerson needed to keep his eyes elsewhere. He was fortunate that the ball wasn’t caught (and that he wasn’t called for holding or pass interference after he grabbed Jones).
“That’s one of those tough plays,” Amerson said. “In the NFL, there are more comebacks than there are comeback and go’s. You have to do whatever you can to break up the pass or stop the receiver. At that point I had to tug him a bit to give me a chance and for the defense to come back on the field and to not give up a touchdown. With double moves the best thing you can do is keep your eyes on the receiver.”
Wilson’s take: “Double moves are hard. There’s a reason why they’re doing them. It doesn’t matter what year, it’s hard. To come over and get away with a tug? Hats off to him. That’s a veteran move. That’s something I would have told him to do in that same situation.”