Raiders Cornerback David Amerson
September 21, 2015 served as a wakeup call for David Amerson – a big one.
Just two years after being selected in the second round (No. 51 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft – tallying a pair of interceptions and 18 passes defensed over the course of 33 games – Amerson was waived by the Washington Redskins, leaving the then-23-year-old a man without a football team.
The Oakland Raiders claimed Amerson the next day, and now, seven months later, the North Carolina State-product has been given ample time to reflect on the ups and downs of what turned into a very interesting 2015.
"I had a lot of growing up to do," Amerson told Raiders.com. "When I was in Washington – I came into the league, I was 21. I was still a kid. I really didn't understand how to be a professional yet, and there was a lot of things I had to learn, and I was going through that growing process."
"With something happening like me getting released, I was almost forced to [grow up]. It was almost do-or-die. It's all-or-nothing. I have to make it my time now and shine, or I can possibly be out of the league. My back was against the wall and it was almost like I had to perform."
And that's exactly what he did.
After playing nearly half the defensive snaps in his first game in Silver and Black – a Week 3 road matchup with the Cleveland Browns – Amerson cracked the starting lineup for the Raiders the next week, less than two weeks after he first touched down in the Bay Area.
From there, he started 12 of the team's 13 final games, and quickly proved to be one of the Raiders' best cover cornerbacks. He set a franchise single-game record Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans by registering six passes defensed, and finished the 2015 campaign with 26 total passes defensed – another franchise record.
So, looking back, was Amerson surprised by the success he found in Oakland after being waived by the Redskins?
"To be honest with you, nothing surprised me," Amerson said. "I know I can run with anybody. I know I can hit with the best of them. I know I'm tough as nails. I know all of this in my head, and the confidence has always been there for me from Day One. I just had to tune up all the little details to really make me successful."
Now, heading into 2016, Amerson has 14 games as Raider under his belt, and will also have the added benefit of going through the Offseason Workout Program and Training Camp with the team. However, the biggest difference from last year to this one has nothing to do with recognizing formations or being more familiar with the playbook; in 2016, David Amerson is finally starting to feel comfortable.
"It makes a world of difference," Amerson explained. "Being a lot closer with some of my teammates, really being closer with my coaches – it's been beneficial for me. Now me having a real understanding for the coaches and what they want, me just being comfortable with the environment, and knowing in my off time where to shop, or where to go get some food, the good places to take a friend, it makes a world of difference."
"It makes you comfortable, and once you're comfortable that builds confidence; that builds everything. It makes a difference."
Now, Amerson, along with new additions Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, is set to be a vital part of a revamped Raiders secondary, and he's looking forward to getting a full season of work in as a member of the Silver and Black.
"I can tell you, it's definitely a good vibe around the [defensive backs], and around the team period," Amerson said. "I feel like the sky is the limit, really. You add two veterans that have played in this league. They bring that mentality of wanting to win, and having that dog-like mentality in them. They're not going to do anything but make everyone better, because I feel like we have a lot of young, hungry [defensive backs] and hungry dogs ready to get after it."
Heading into the new season, Amerson could be seen as a microcosm of the 2016 Raiders. He's a player with heady expectations attached to him, but as he's quick to note, potential doesn't win football games.
"Potential is just potential but the main thing, is you just have to work, man," Amerson said. "Once you put in that work in the offseason, in the weight room, in the film room, on the field, once you know in your head that you've mentally and physically put in all the work that you needed to put in, once you get on that field, you feel like you're invincible. You feel like Superman."
"I want to get better. I don't want people to look back on David Amerson and go, 'oh, he was better last year.' I want them to be like, 'dang, he's even better than he was last year.' I just want to continue to improve, to continue to develop my game and go forward and not backwards."