Red­skins CB Nor­man up to chal­lenge against top wide re­ceivers.

Nor­man to shadow di­vi­sion ri­vals’ top wide re­ceivers

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

ASH­BURN | Josh Nor­man has al­ready got­ten a jump on his bat­tles with the wide re­ceivers of the NFC East this year.

He thinks Odell Beck­ham Jr. puts on a fake toughguy act. Dez Bryant is washed up.

“Trust me when I tell you, it’s go­ing to be bad blood this year,” Nor­man said in a magazine in­ter­view with Bleacher Re­port. “You think the NFC East didn’t like each other be­fore? This year right here? There’s go­ing to be a lot of fines and maybe some sus­pen­sions.”

Early last sea­son, Nor­man’s chal­lenges to top wide­outs were tem­pered by the fact that he wasn’t al­ways cov­er­ing them. It has al­ready been made clear that this year is dif­fer­ent. The Red­skins corner­backs, and yes, that means Nor­man, will shadow wide re­ceivers.

“There is some peo­ple — from the per­spec­tive of a cor­ner — it’s hard for them to travel at times, but will we do that? Yeah,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky said.

OK, so that’s not a prom­ise writ­ten in blood to su­per­glue Nor­man to the back of Odell Beck­ham Jr.’s jer­sey (wouldn’t that be fun) but it’s also a de­vi­a­tion from how the Red­skins be­gan last sea­son un­der co­or­di­na­tor Joe Barry.

In Week 1 of last year play­ing the Steel­ers, the Red­skins mostly used Bashaud Bree­land to cover An­to­nio Brown. It didn’t work very well, and Brown caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touch­downs in the Red­skins loss.

Wash­ing­ton was crit­i­cized for stick­ing with the matchup but, still, didn’t put Nor­man on Dez Bryant at all times the fol­low­ing week against Dal­las. Bryant’s line: seven catches for 102 yards.

The ‘have corners, will travel’ phi­los­o­phy isn’t al­ways the right one. Manusky be­lieves that he has the nec­es­sar­ily per­son­nel to match up when it’s the right thing to do, but it won’t al­ways be that way.

“Yeah, I think de­pend­ing upon who we’re play­ing and who we want to travel and who we want to match. Yeah, some­times you want to put that bet­ter player maybe

on their lesser player and try to dou­ble the other guy.”

Nor­man and Bree­land have, as ex­pected, worked as the start­ing corners in off­sea­son prac­tices open to the me­dia. The Red­skins also have high hopes for their third-round draft pick Fabian Moreau, who is ex­pected to be fully re­cov­ered from a torn pec­toral mus­cle some­time be­tween the start of train­ing camp and the start of the sea­son.

Bet­ter safety help, which Wash­ing­ton has rea­son to be­lieve it will get, would also make a dif­fer­ence. Adding a strong player in D.J. Swearinger to play free safety should help min­i­mize some of the big plays top re­ceivers made against the Red­skins last sea­son. Al­low­ing the corner­backs to play off more should also have that ef­fect.

Manusky thinks Nor­man, in par­tic­u­lar, will do well play­ing off more.

“I think just from a foot­ball per­spec­tive, he feels it and he knows it. And I think they’re the play­ers that you want on the field and that’s what he has,” Manusky said. “He has that feel for it, and when the ball is com­ing out, he can break on it.”

The NFC East is home to many of the most fa­mous re­ceivers in foot­ball. Beck­ham. Bryant. New Ea­gle Al­shon Jef­fery.

De­fense would have been the Red­skins’ ma­jor off­sea­son con­cern in any di­vi­sion. Given some of the talents they face twice per year, it was even more of a pri­or­ity.

“Well, it has a ma­jor in­flu­ence, not to men­tion, we were not very good on third downs last year, which we need to get bet­ter on third downs,” coach Jay Gru­den said.

Say it’s third and long. What’s a quar­ter­back to do? Of­ten, throw to his best re­ceiver, or his fa­vorite re­ceiver. If the Red­skins think their best chance of stop­ping him is to match a cor­ner up with that re­ceiver wher­ever he goes, they won’t hes­i­tate to do so. And who doesn’t like a fight be­tween heavy­weights?

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins were crit­i­cized for not putting cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man on top NFC East wide re­ceivers like the New York Giants’ Odell Beck­ham Jr. and the Dal­las Cow­boys’ Dez Bryant (be­low) at all times last sea­son. In Week 2, Bryant had seven catches for 102 yards against the Red­skins.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins may go to a “have corners, will travel” credo more un­der new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky where top cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man cov­ers the op­po­nent’s top re­ceiver like Dal­las Cow­boys’ Dez Bryant.

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