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