Nor­man may be out to get in­side Wentz’s red head

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz re­spects Josh Nor­man, the Pro Bowl de­fen­sive back he op­poses Sun­day at FedEx Field, as a play­maker.

Wentz quickly added that the fiery com­peti­tor who claims to be the best cor­ner­back on the planet “doesn’t re­ally change our ap­proach too much.”

It should be in­ter­est­ing to see how that de­vel­ops when the Ea­gles op­pose Wash­ing­ton in Lan­dover, Md. Sun­day. Nor­man is as skilled at get­ting in­side the heads of quar­ter­backs as he is play­ing the ball.

With the Carolina Pan­thers, Nor­man got into a train­ing camp tus­sle with his own quar­ter­back, Cam New­ton. It turned into a scrum when New­ton didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the show Nor­man put on af­ter an in­ter­cep­tion.

Nor­man is adept at press­ing the but­tons of diva wide re­ceivers, as well. The NFL in­sti­tuted a rule al­low­ing of­fi­cials to eject a player af­ter two per­sonal fouls fol­low­ing Nor­man’s late sea­son, ingame, no-holds-barred wrestling match with Odell Beck­ham, Jr. of the New York Gi­ants.

Now there is con­cern among the Gi­ants’ coach­ing staff that teams are us­ing the Nor­man model to push Beck­ham over the edge.

This year, vet­eran DeAn­gelo Hall had to in­ter­vene when Nor­man got into a side­line scrap with David Bru­ton be­fore a Mon­day night game. All of them play for Wash­ing­ton.

“If I know Car­son like I think I do, I don’t think he’s wor­ried about who’s out there at the cor­ner spot,” vet­eran Ea­gles safety Mal­colm Jenk­ins said. “He’s go­ing to throw it if they’re open. So I don’t think we’re wor­ried about him get­ting in Car­son’s head.”

When Nor­man (6-0, 203) isn’t putting him­self in those sit­u­a­tions, he’s bait­ing quar­ter­backs into in­ter­cep­tions. He has eight in his ca­reer, one this sea­son against Cody Kessler.

Nor­man is about to learn the dif­fer­ence be­tween Wentz and Cody Kessler.

“We’ll be aware of where he’s at,” Wentz said. “He’s a play­maker and we’ve got to know that. Yeah, we re­spect the heck out of him but at the same time it doesn’t re­ally change our ap­proach too much. We give him his re­spect. We know what type of player he is. Like I said, he’s a play­maker. But we don’t dwell on that too much, at the same time.”

Nor­man was too high main­te­nance to stick with the Pan­thers, who thought it bet­ter to cut ties with him and be shred­ded through the air this sea­son. When the Pan­thers took the fran­chise tag off, Nor­man signed a five-year, $75 mil­lion con­tract with Daniel Sny­der and Wash­ing­ton. You don’t hear New­ton say­ing the Pan­thers can’t win with­out Nor­man.

Be­fore this sea­son be­gan Nor­man railed about how he couldn’t wait to face then-Ea­gles quar­ter­back Sam Brad­ford twice. It wasn’t a com­pli­ment. He hasn’t said much about Wentz, al­though it’s early.

Nor­man isn’t the only de­fender Wentz must be aware of. Pass rusher Ryan Ker­ri­gan likely will line up against Ea­gles rookie right tackle Hal Vaitai, who’s mak­ing his first start Sun­day.

Wentz says he and the coaches have con­fi­dence in Vaitai, who’s re­plac­ing the sus­pended Lane John­son.

“They’ve got a good front four,” Wentz said of his op­po­nent. “Ker­ri­gan ob­vi­ously is a re­ally good player, a re­ally good rusher. They just fly around. You’ve got Nor­man back there that makes some plays that are very in­stinc­tual. They make some plays. They’re good in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ar­eas. So ob­vi­ously we’ve got our work cut out for us but we’re con­fi­dent where we’re at, as well.”

With a young core of wide re­ceivers, Wentz can­not af­ford to be set up by Nor­man, who Wash­ing­ton moves around to en­hance matchups.

Ea­gles of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Frank Re­ich said the tape shows Nor­man play­ing “a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing.

“He will play to one side some of the time,” Re­ich said. “But some­times he’ll move into the slot on man cov­er­age. They’ll play cor­ners-over-zone and cor­ners-over­man. That’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent than some teams. Some teams will go cor­ners-over and it will all be man cov­er­age. This team will do both. He can show up in a few places.”

Wentz has to be more cog­nizant of which re­ceiver he’s throw­ing to in spe­cific sit­u­a­tions. Late in the 24-23 loss last week to the Lions, he aired the ball out to Nel­son Agholor. It turned into a game-seal­ing pick for cor­ner­back Dar­ius Slay, who reached over Agholor to make the grab.

Slay rode that pick and a fum­ble he forced from Ryan Mathews into NFC de­fen­sive player of the week hon­ors.

Nor­man is the same kind of tal­ent. Maybe bet­ter.

“Nor­man is a great cor­ner,” Re­ich said. “He’s got great vi­sion and great in­stincts. He’s got some length and good ball skills. Again, I think for Car­son, go­ing against guys of that cal­iber, you look for­ward to go­ing against the great ones. You re­ally do.”

We won’t know un­til Sun­day if Nor­man’s propen­sity to make matchups per­sonal im­pacts Wentz. We won’t but team­mates such as C.J. Smith, who played with Wentz at North Dakota State do.

“The way Car­son ap­proaches the game, he’s such a com­peti­tor that his fo­cus, his end goal is al­ways to get the W,” Smith said. “That’s what sep­a­rates him from other guys.”


Cleve­land Browns wide re­ceiver Ter­relle Pryor (11) is tack­led by Red­skins cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man, left, dur­ing a game be­tween the teams Oct. 2. Nor­man has been out­stand­ing for the Red­skins, who signed him away from Carolina to a five-year, $75 mil­lion deal in April. The Red­skins have had key in­juries on de­fense.

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