KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs have made no bones about their intention of playing with increased aggression and a tougher defensive mentality in 2018, and new cornerback David Amerson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Anytime you’re up in somebody’s face every play they’re going to try you,” Amerson said following Tuesday’s first of three minicamp practices. “Most offenses look to go outside when guys press all the time, so just gives you more opportunities to make plays.”
Playing an aggressive press-man style allowed Amerson to tally 60 passes defended with eight interceptions in four seasons with Washington and Oakland from 2013-16. But the 2017 season turned into a nightmare for Amerson. A concussion and shoulder injury limited his effectiveness early in the season before a foot injury derailed his year for the final nine games.
Healthy and happy once again in Kansas City, Amerson hopes to add stability to a secondary that ranked 29th in the league last season in passing yards allowed.
“I think the main reason for me coming here, I feel like we have a good chance to go deep into the playoffs as well as win a championship,” Amerson said. “I think that’s most people’s goal as well as mine.”
The Chiefs have reasons to believe that their secondary might improve in 2018 despite the loss of cornerback Marcus Peters. Amerson and Kendall Fuller join with fourth-year cornerback Steven Nelson, who looks lively and active during offseason workouts after a core muscle injury forced him to injured reserve starting the 2017 season.
Fuller looks to lineup as the team’s primary slot corner but anticipates playing outside in the base 3-4 look. He’s comfortable with that approach, even if it requires understanding multiple roles in the defense.
“You don’t go in there trying to learn one position,” Fuller said. “You go in there learning what the corner doing, the nickel doing, safety doing, the dime, the backers. The way the system is you’ve got to learn how to do everything.”
“I think playing DB here is definitely a challenge,” he said. “I think just everyone stepping up to the challenge, myself as well as everyone out there.”
If the Chiefs secondary can improve without Peters, much of the pressure falls on Fuller. The third-year corner acquired in the Alex Smith trade. He ranked as the No. 1 slot corner in the league last year by Pro Football Focus and the fifth-best overall corner. He played just 66 percent of his team’s defensive snaps, however, and the Chiefs expect to ask Fuller to assume a full-time role.
Amerson believes Fuller capable of making the transition.
“He’s definitely a student of the game, definitely studies, definitely fundamentally sound,” Amerson said. “You can tell he was coached well, whether it was with (Washington) or at Virginia Tech, and I think he shows in his play. He’s a very fundamental cornerback.”
Coaches love to use the word “sponge” talking about players who pick up all the knowledge and information they can, and Fuller certainly fits that descriptive. He said he learned much watching Josh Norman in Washington, and now has Eric Berry to observe in Kansas City.
“Even when you’re watching film you look at certain guys, see what they do,” Fuller said. “Being able to look at EB, seeing how he studies the film, how he practices. You’ve got to be a student of the game, just watch and soak up any knowledge you can.”
A restlessness pervades the team’s cornerback group. That tone likely comes from the top. Head coach Andy Reid, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and secondary coach Al Harris all understand the secondary must contain the leaks that sprung everywhere last season. But much of that attitude comes from the players themselves, a core group of aggressive defenders uneasy with past success and ready for more.
“I think as a defensive back you can never stop growing as a player, I know especially for myself,” Amerson said. “Just picking up little things that I learn from Al or learn from any of my teammates or anybody, just little things.”
Rookies such as sixth-round selection Tremon Smith and undrafted free agent Arrion Springs are looking to prove themselves and hope to play a role this year. But even veterans like Fuller, Amerson and Nelson don’t feel comfortable with where they are, striving to build their skillset and bolster the team’s pass defense.
“Everybody’s hungry,” Fuller said. “We’re working to get each other better. There’s nothing selfish about it. I’m going help you, you’re going to help me and we’re just going to help to get each other better because we’re going to need each other on Sundays.”