- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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His rookie season included a little of everything. There was hope: the interception returned for a touchdown against Oakland. There was concern: falling for double moves and missing assignments. In the end, though, the Washington Redskins were quite pleased with how second-round corner David Amerson developed -- and how he finished the season.
And they liked what they saw this offseason (some players talked privately about how he had improved). Now, as Amerson enters his second season, he does so as a starter. Amerson will have a lot more to prove, and for the defense to get better the optimism surrounding him must be legitimate.
But Amerson had a clear grip on where he wanted to improve his game.
"Going into my second year, I feel confident," he said last month. "I found my swagger a little bit. I feel good about it. ...Coming into the season I was real fresh. I started to pick up the defense, but as far as fundamentally and working at stuff, I was raw at it. The more I played the better I got."
Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said they challenged Amerson to "work harder than he ever worked before" this offseason.
"We always joked with him to take the cool out of his game," Hall said. "It looks like he's not really working. From Day 1 of the offseason program he was first in the sprints. We have a board of guys who won sprints and he's top two in every category. He accepted the challenge and he worked hard, he lifted hard. He worked on his technique and all his fundamentals and nuances of the defense."
And defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Amerson has matured -- remember, he did not turn 22 until late in his rookie season.
"He has the type of skills you look for at that position," Haslett said. "He has a ways to go, but I'm proud of the way he's developed to this point."
Here's a look at how Amerson hopes to get better:
Run support: A big knock on Amerson in college was his run defense. He tackled better last season than he did at NC State, in part because it was demanded. Amerson said he added seven-to-eight pounds of muscle in the offseason to help his play against the run.
"I felt a little slim sometimes [last season]," Amerson said. "I can support the run a little more, get off blocks and make it difficult for people to put their hands on me."
His technique against the run needs adjusting, too. He has to make sure he's taking the proper angles to give him the best leverage. It's not like he didn't face the run game last season, but he was the third corner and entered in three-receiver sets.
There's another aspect he wants to work on, too.
"I'm a tall guy so sometimes I dive at guys because I have to get so low," said the 6-foot-1 Amerson. "I throw my head down. So I just have to focus on fundamentals and the little things."
Press coverage: Amerson was new to this last season, having rarely -- if ever -- done it at NC State. But with his height and long arms, it's a natural tactic for him. Amerson improved in this area throughout last season, but knows he's not yet where he needs to be.
"I definitely feel good at the line of scrimmage," Amerson said. "The main thing is to get your hands on guys. You can really kill the quarterback's read and mess up the timing. I definitely feel more comfortable.
"I remember a play I got beat on last year against Oakland. A guy shook me up at the line, got an inside release on me and caught a deep ball. The biggest thing is just to get your hands on people. Once you get your hands on them, you can control the route. If you miss it, it might be a touchdown."
The eyes have it: Another criticism of Amerson in college involved his eyes. Too often he would get caught peeking too long in the backfield after the receiver made a cut. Offenses hurt him by turning that into a double move and big plays. That also happened in his rookie season.
For Amerson, he just has to make sure his eyes are in the right place, whether in zone or man. He appeared to do a good job of this in the spring, though on at least one occasion he was burned when he looked too long in the backfield.
"When I play my best ball my eyes are in the right position," he said. "It allows me to play faster. I know when I don't, my eyes are on the quarterback and I don't see the route or I might see it late or something and it makes me late to the comeback. ...It's about repping it. Sometimes you might slip and have your eyes in the wrong place. The more you get comfortable with it and the more you drill it, it becomes second nature."
Know the D:Hall knows what it's like to be a rookie corner. They feel like they have to cover every route and, in the end, that mentality can land them in trouble. When you learn the defense, and where your help is, you can play your responsibility much better.
"That's what we want to teach him. 'It's all right if he catches that pass, it's OK. That's what we want him to catch. We don't want him to catch this,'" Hall said. "Last year he was just out there playing. He's learned what we want him to prevent and what the defense will help him stop."