ASHBURN, Va. (AP) —The Washington Redskins' attempt to improve their biggest weakness centers on a player who needs to figure out when to take his chances.
The reigning NFC East champions selected David Amerson of North Carolina State in the second round of the NFL draft Friday, a choice aimed at helping a secondary that ranked 30th in the league against the pass last year.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback set a single-season Atlantic Coast Conference record with 13 interceptions in 2011 and won the Jack Tatum Award as the nation's top defensive back, but his play regressed last year as he tried to do even better. He became a hit-or-miss player, making five interceptions while getting beat far too often for touchdowns.
"At the beginning of the season, I was trying to make every play, trying to make everything an interception, trying to just jump every route," Amerson said from Raleigh, N.C., where he watched the draft in a house filled with friends, family and a generous spread of food.
"I started sitting on routes, eyes in the backfield, stuff like that. It was more of me beating myself more than just getting beat by other receivers, and that's something I had to eliminate. It was hurting my team. It was hurting myself."
The Redskins made an unexpected choice in the third round, taking tight end Jordan Reed from Florida. The team has more pressing needs at safety and right tackle, but coach Mike Shanahan instead opted for a 6-foot-2, 236-pound pass-catcher who was originally recruited as a quarterback.
Amerson's drop-off last year led to speculation that he would be better suited for safety in the NFL, but he said the Redskins only spoke to him about playing cornerback. He said he's ready to re-learn the fundamentals as he joins a team with designs of becoming a Super Bowl contender in Robert Griffin III's second year at quarterback.
"I have to get back to the basics," Amerson said. "And playing football like I know how to play."
The Redskins still have last season's two starting cornerbacks — DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson — and both took pay cuts to remain with the team as it slashed salaries to deal with a cap penalty imposed by the NFL. Amerson should be able to contend for the nickel cornerback spot and possibly challenge one of the two starters, neither of whom is under contract beyond this year.
Amerson was the first player chosen by the Redskins in this year's draft. The team didn't have a first-round pick, having shipped it to the St. Louis Rams last year for the trade that put Washington into position to select Griffin.
While Amerson knew the Redskins were interested — he had a visit with the coaching staff in the lead-up to the draft — Reed didn't have a clue that he was on the team's radar.
"I had no idea I was going to get picked by Washington," Reed said. "Big surprise to me. I'm just so excited."
Reed moved to tight end in 2011 and last year led the Gators in receiving with 45 catches for 559 yards. The Redskins already have Fred Davis, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen at tight end, but the position has gained more prominence in the NFL passing game in recent years.