The addition of new faces in the secondary is the most important change for the Washington Redskins this year. The opening day defensive backfield could feature two rookie starters.
One is cornerback David Amerson, the team's top draft choice. The former North Carolina State standout gives the defense greater size at the corner position.
The 6'1", 205-pounder also boasts the ball skills to increase last season's team total of 21 interceptions. In 2011, Amerson snared 13 interceptions and knows how to make game-changing plays.
Kevin Ross II of CBSDC, notes that Amerson has been "outstanding" in preseason. But he also states that the rookie must show he can be more physical and play press techniques in the pros.
Amerson's NFL.com draft profile notes that zone and off-coverage were his strengths at the collegiate level. He may begin life in Washington as a third corner until he learns to use his size to his advantage.
Given how often teams use three-cornerback packages to counter multiple-receiver sets, Amerson can be a real asset as a rookie. His flair for the big play could see him usurp incumbents Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall sooner than expected.
Another first-year defensive back the Redskins will hope can quickly make the grade is safety Bacarri Rambo. The sixth-round draft pick has started most of preseason and can step in immediately at free safety.
That is the role Rambo played at Georgia and he has the instincts of a natural center fielder. Run support has been an issue, but Rambo has shown a willingness to improve in this area.
It is a big step up from the late rounds of the draft to being the last line of coverage for a pro defense. But the Redskins need more range and dynamism at the position, so Rambo is worth the risk.
He could have a veteran playing alongside him, provided Brandon Meriweather can stay healthy. His first season in D.C. was savaged by a torn ACL, but he made his return to start the final game of preseason.
Unfortunately, Mike Jones of The Washington Post saw some reasons for concern in Meriweather's performance:
The bad news, he appeared hesitant to get into the mix on some run plays where he could’ve helped make tackles. Meriweather had a couple pass plays where he appeared sound in coverage, but otherwise, Meriweather didn’t really have much of an impact. It’s understandable that he would exhibit some rust, but it would’ve been nice to see Meriweather make a couple plays. Meriweather didn’t record a tackle in the game.
The Redskins need Meriweather to put himself near the action on a regular basis. He can be a liability in coverage, but he is a fierce hitter and good blitzer.
Coordinator Jim Haslett should play him nearer the line of scrimmage and use him to attack offenses. But that would depend on Meriweather's willingness to adopt such a demanding role.
Haslett needs these new faces to deliver for last season's 30th-ranked pass defense to improve. His unit faces some elite quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. So the secondary cannot put the offense in shootout mode every week.