I'm fascinated by the development of both safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerback David Amerson, mainly because their growth is a big key to the development of the secondary. They've done a lot well, and Rambo showed well in the one area he struggled with in the first two games -- tackling. They both have more to learn. It's not about nit-picking their game, but it is about tracking their development. So what lessons will they learn against Tampa Bay Thursday night? Here's a little of what they learned in the last game.
1. Don’t panic. Amerson played the route perfectly at first. The Bills wanted a quick pass, so QB Jeff Tuel took a short drop and wanted to throw to his right. But corner E.J. Biggers took the route away. That’s when Tuel turned back to the left and the receiver on Amerson’s side had broken off his route, turning it into a go. The rookie was in trouble, more because of a heads-up play by the receiver than anything he had done wrong. Amerson’s mistake was not playing it better downfield and drawing a 42-yard pass interference penalty. Don’t wave your arms. When you do make contact it looks like more than it might have been.
“He was in great shape, he caught up to the guy and then, you can’t swing your arms,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “But it’s a learning experience for him. We did some drills with him the other day with him and I think he’s got such good speed and length that even if someone does get behind him and he doesn’t panic, he’ll catch up and when the guy puts his arms up he’ll put his hands in between them and he’ll be fine. But he just -- you can’t swing your arms.”
Amerson said he talked to the receiver, former NC State teammate T.J. Graham, after the game. “It was what I expected: He was going to run a smash route, but converted to a go because I played it so well. I tried to play through his hands but he stopped and fell. I didn’t really touch him at all.”
2. Trust your instincts. Rambo made a nice break on the ball against the Bills in the second half that would have resulted in an interception had the pass been thrown better. Instead, it was high and just missed Rambo’s hands and was a completion. But Rambo also said he needs to “close the space” a little better between he and the target. On the play, Rambo read Tuel’s eyes well -- he did not know where the receiver was because his focus was on Tuel. At first Rambo thought the Bills had another receiver running a crossing pattern in the area and was concerned he’d run into him. That’s why he hesitated. “It hurt me,” he said. “But if the quarterback had thrown a perfect pass, I would have had a touchdown.” There are players who don’t trust their instincts and come back to the sideline and say they’ll do so the next time. Then they don’t. They’re not playmakers. Rambo is one so I think he’ll learn from how he handled it last week.
3. Play your assignment. This is not something Rambo needed to learn, but it’s something he does well and it’s why he’s still starting. Rambo attacked Bills running back C.J. Spiller decisively on a pass to the left flat, leading to a breakup, because he was in the right spot (curl/flat zone drop) and made the correct read. It was not some monster play, but rather just the right one. You make enough of the right plays and you can do a lot of good things. The issues Rambo has had this summer were more from tackles and taking proper angles. His reads, however, have been good. “That’s how comfortable I feel and I just trust my ability,” Rambo said. And, he said, he’s feeling much better coming up to make tackles. “The last couple times I was thinking too much and now I just go out and do what I’ve been practicing, what I’m staying after practice for,” Rambo said, “and just keeping on my [correct] shoulder and make the tackle.” Keep the game simple.