David Amerson enjoyed his visit to Redskins Park earlier this month. The N.C. State cornerback dined with coach Mike Shanahan, ate lunch with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and watched some film. He left believing he would fit well into a Washington Redskins defense that at times struggled to defend the pass last season.
It turns out the Redskins felt the same.
Washington selected Amerson in the second round of the draft Friday night, 51st overall. The Redskins later drafted Florida pass-catching tight end Jordan Reed in the third round, 85th overall.
Amerson is a play-making, risk-taking defender who set an ACC record with 13 interceptions two seasons ago but surrendered too many big plays for his own liking last season.
“It’s definitely something I have to learn from and develop from,” Amerson said. “It’s something that can help me grow as a player.
“Just trying to make every play, taking chances sometimes when I shouldn’t have, losing sight of little fundamentals and things like that. So I have to get back to basics.”
Shanahan wasn’t fazed by whatever errors Amerson made last year during his junior season. He chose Amerson over Boise St. cornerback Jamar Taylor and South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger.
“We’re going to coach him the way we want to coach him,” Shanahan said. “He’s going to fit into our system. We think we can give him some opportunities he hasn’t had in the past.”
Drafting Amerson and Reed demonstrated Shanahan’s affinity for athletes with exceptional physical measureables.
Amerson is a prototypical cornerback at 6-1, 205 pounds. His arm length of 32 5/8 inches is considered quality, and his hands are big at 10 1/2 inches. Those attributes help his ball skills. Also, he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in 4.44 seconds.
“He’s a guy we feel can play in off coverage,” Shanahan said. “He’s got the speed that you look for. He can play in bump coverage. He’s got some length. Just a guy that we thought we would fit into our system very well. Very sharp player. Very smart player.”
Amerson should compete to start in a secondary that ranked 23rd in the NFL last season in passing yards surrendered per attempt.
The Redskins on Day 2 of the draft did not fill their need for a frontline free safety, but drafting Amerson could provide flexibility to move veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall around.
“He can play outside,” Shanahan said of Hall. “He can play inside, which gives you some advantages, especially with what offenses are doing nowadays. He can play free safety. He can play strong safety, which a lot of people can’t play because they don’t have the skills or they don’t want to hit. D-Hall is not afraid to hit.
“He’s very bright, so he gives us a lot of flexibility. But you have to have the depth at the corner position, and now we feel like we do have a little depth.”
Reed addresses an offensive need with first-string tight end Fred Davis coming off left Achilles’ tendon surgery as he enters the last year of his contract. He is a pass-catching threat in Davis’ mold.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Reed said on a teleconference Friday night.
He converted to tight end only two seasons ago after arriving at Florida as a quarterback. He started at quarterback in the 2011 Outback Bowl against Penn State.
At 6-2, 236 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for a tight end. The tradeoff there is athleticism running routes. He led the Gators with 45 receptions for 559 yards and three touchdowns. His 4.72-second 40-yard dash at the combine was the seventh-fastest among tight ends.
“He was a guy that has a great ability to make people miss,” Shanahan said. “When he has the ball in his hands, he can do things with the ball that are very athletic, something that a lot of tight ends can’t do. We weren’t necessarily looking for a tight end, but when he was there we couldn’t pass him up.”
Reed was benched during Florida’s Sugar Bowl appearance last season because of his attitude, the Gainesville Sun reported. Shanahan, however, said he was comfortable drafting Reed after researching the incident.
Selecting Reed doesn’t mean Shanahan’s confidence in tight end Niles Paul has wavered, Shanahan said. Paul, in his second NFL season, transitioned from wide receiver last season and admittedly struggled at times playing with his hand down and blocking bigger defenders.
“I expect him to be a lot better,” Shanahan said. “The thing you can do offensively when you have four tight ends, you’re flexible. You can put a lot of pressure on the defense. You can go dress five [wide receivers] for a game, four wides, four tight ends, a guy that could go either direction. It helps you in your special teams. It gives you your ability to do things that normally an offense can’t do and a defense has to prepare for.”
Washington has five selections scheduled for Saturday: a fourth-rounder, two picks in the fifth round and one each in the sixth and seventh.
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