ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have forever been a haven for players who needed a change of scenery to thrive, from the likes of John Matuszak to Lyle Alzado to Jim Plunkett to Rich Gannon to... David Amerson.
Don’t laugh. At least, not yet.
To see how far Amerson has come in Oakland, you first have to see how far the cornerback fell with the organization that made him its first draft pick in 2013.
And why Amerson’s return game at Washington on Sunday night may not be as rife with talk of payback, or showing up his former organization, as you might think.
Besides, Amerson has been with the Raiders almost as long now as he was with the Redskins. Oakland is home now.
“Obviously, there’s memories with the organization, in that stadium,” Amerson said this week, “but I’m not really focused on that right now.
“I made a couple of plays in that stadium. I guess my last interception. Yeah, I remember that.”
Everything else, though, about his stay in Washington is forgettable.
Because after a decent rookie season in which he had two interceptions (against the Raiders’ Matt Flynn and the San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers) and started eight of 16 games after being the 51st overall pick of the 2013 draft (Washington had surrendered its first-rounder the year before to draft Robert Griffin III), Amerson fell on hard times in his second year.
He started 15 games and, per Pro Football Focus via the Oakland Tribune, Amerson was without an interception and allowed quarterbacks to complete 73.6 percent of their passes against him, or 67 catches for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He played just two games for Washington in 2015 before being cut, and the Raiders jumped at Amerson and claimed him off waivers.
“Why are you sitting in front of me,” then-Raiders defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson asked Amerson upon his arrival in Oakland. “I look at the Washington roster and there’s no way you should be sitting in front of me.”
As in, Amerson’s talent should have had him sticking in Washington.
Alas, Washington’s loss was the Raiders’ gain, so long as Amerson responded to the, ahem, change of scenery. And he did.
In 14 games with the Raiders in 2015, including 12 starts, Amerson had a career-best four interceptions and set an Oakland franchise record with 26 passes defensed.
The Raiders then signed Amerson to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million, with $18 million guaranteed in 2016.
He had two picks and 16 passes defensed in 15 games last season but was steady and was the Raiders’ best cornerback.
Now, he was charged with two TDs allowed in the Raiders’ 45-20 laughter over the New York Jets last weekend, and he simply mistimed his jump on one, otherwise he was in perfect position to pick off the ball.
But playing the position requires Amerson to have a short memory. Maybe that’s why the guy who played 33 games for Washington and will be playing in his 32nd for the Raiders swears he won’t get overly nostalgic at FedEx Field come Sunday night.
He has to prepare to go against a familiar signal caller, after all.
“Kirk Cousins is a very, very smart quarterback,” Amerson said. “Obviously, he’s a guy that can make all the throws and I think that the biggest thing when playing against a guy like Kirk Cousins is making him uncomfortable, getting pressure on him, making sure he’s not back there just patting the ball, reading coverages.
“Like I said, he’s pretty smart, he’ll kind of figure out what [coverage] guys are in. I know he studies hard, so it won’t really be that hard for him to read what’s going on. So really, just make him uncomfortable. Sticky coverage. Try to make plays when the ball comes your way.”
Like Amerson did as a rookie for Washington, right?