DefenseGrade vs. Buccaneers: CComment: After Sundays too-close-for-comfort 24-22 victory in Tampa, a number of defensive players said they saw progress. After all, the team yielded 32, 31 and 38 points, respectively, in the first games of the season. Those same players, though, acknowledged that the unit's second half letdown at Raymond James Stadium left much to be desired.Indeed, the Madieu Williams-led defense limited the Buccaneers to a meager 132 yards in the first half, six first downs and a total of six points. Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the Redskins front seven applied consistent pressure to Josh Freeman and, as a result, the quarterback never looked comfortable as he completed only 13 of 22 pass attempts for 88 yards. Freeman was also sacked once and picked off by DeAngelo Hall.The second half, however, was another story as the Redskins secondary struggled once again, proving particularly susceptible to the big play. Part of the problem, linebacker Rob Jackson said, was that Freeman was not subjected the same level of pressure he faced in the first two quarters.The rest of problem, however, was a familiar one: poor execution on the backend.The game, in fact, turned on a pair of long completions.On the first a 65-yard catch and run by Mike Williams in the third quarter the Buccaneers receiver raced past Josh Wilson down the sideline, then juked Wilson and Madieu Williams to gain another 30 yards after the catch. On the second a 54-yard yard reception by Vincent Jackson in the fourth quarter Jackson used his seven-inch height advantage to make an outstanding diving catch over Hall in the middle of the field.Both receptions set up pivotal scores for the Buccaneers as they overcame a 15-point deficit second half deficit. In all, the Redskins yielded 293 passing yards after permitting 326, 301 and 385, respectively, in Weeks 1-3. The unit allowed more than 293 yards passing only twice in 2011 and now ranks 31stwith an average of 326 passing yards against per game.You take a look at everything, Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. Why do they make those plays? Thats what we do when we look at film. We talk about the things that we did to give up those big plays. Is it scheme? Is it personnel? Doesnt matter what it is. You have to take a look at what players do best and you have to adjust your scheme to fit your personnel.Potentially complicating matters will be overcoming the loss of safety of veteran Brandon Meriweather, who will miss a fifth game of the season after reinjuring his left knee in a pregame collision with teammate Aldrick Robinson.
Josh Norman is bound to receive a lot of attention for the new story in ESPN The Magazine that centers around him. The Redskins star likely expects it, too, after calling himself "the best cornerback on earth" and Odell Beckham Jr. a "villain."
But Beckham isn't the only wideout whom the defensive back goes after in the feature. At one point, Norman says of Broncos pass catcher Demaryius Thomas, the target Norman held to just one catch in Carolina's Super Bowl loss to Denver: "I don't know what he was out there for. He was supposed to be an all-world guy, and I shut him down."
Well, that quote has clearly already reached Thomas, judging by this tweet he sent out on Tuesday:
Unfortunately, while Norman will have a chance this year to directly silence other players who've called him out this offseason — including the aforementioned Beckham, Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson and his former club who shockingly released him — the Broncos and Redskins aren't scheduled to face one another in 2016.
Unless, of course, both sides are able to make their way to Houston for Super Bowl 51. And if that matchup does somehow come to fruition, Norman will finally be in position to answer Thomas' Twitter taunt and secure a ring of his own. For now, however, Thomas has the upper hand... or finger, that is.
ASHBURN - Things turned upside down for Josh Norman this summer, and as the coverage surrounding his every word increases, the new Redskins cornerback knows what to expect. The latest batch of bulletin board material came from an ESPN the Magazine article in which Norman proclaimed, among other things, that he's the best corner in the league. Asked about those comments on Tuesday, Norman did not want to discuss it.
"I’m not about to answer any questions about it right now," Norman said in a media scrum. "I think at a later date those questions will be asked, but right now something that was done five months ago, I really don’t feel like talking about after our practice today."
Though Norman didn't comment on the specifics in the article, the conversation turned around to the new spotlight the Redskins $75 million player lives under.
"When you get a deal like that, everything comes with it," he said. "Everything’s magnified times 10."
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Norman explained that for his whole career - from a late-round draft pick to a backup to an All-Pro - he always felt like he had to earn his spot, though that role has changed.
"Once I was the underdog and I had to fight my way up to the top. I had to like drive, drive, drive, drive and continue to work hard and do everything that I’ve gotten to this point. But now, I’m no longer the underdog. Now I’m no longer that person. Now I am the guy that has to take on a new face, has to take on a new mask and be somebody that is always going to be the standard."
Changing roles will not be too much for Norman to handle.
"That’s something that I haven’t experienced yet and now taking that challenge and looking at it, I want to do it in a way I want to do it and not no way nobody else wants to make me do it. I think that, in an aspect, I just have to grow in that field, which I will. Those things come and I just got to understand that, but still have that dog when you’re on the football field."
Norman said that his faith helps him handle challenges, and pushes him to get through tough times.
"I can take it. I can go and use it and use it as another tool to try to find myself as a person and as an individual player to come in and bring something different. I think if I can have that unique set of tools and skills to be able to fend off everything that people say, I can take it. I can take it and continue to be successful."
For Redskins fans, as long as Norman is successful on the field, the headlines and increased exposure will be fun distractions.
"I can take it. I’m a big boy. I got some big shoes. We’ll be having fun with it and enjoying our teammates that’s on the team now."
ASHBURN - When Matt Jones left last Friday's preseason game against the Jets with a shoulder injury, Redskins fans were near panic mode. Washington's running back unit looks quite thin behind Jones, so the consternation made sense, though nerves calmed some when the prognosis for the running back did not seem too worrisome.
On Tuesday, Jones worked off to the side at Redskins practice with other injured players, rehabbing from the sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. Interestingly, the work Jones put in with trainers seemed more focused on his legs than his shoulder, which Jones explained as a way to keep his legs strong when he's not taking reps with the first team offense. More importantly, Jones feels like his injury is moving along quickly.
"It's feeling pretty good. I'm moving fast in my healing process right now," Jones said. "I'm taking big strides."
Asked if his goal was to be back for the Redskins regular season opener against the Steelers on September 12, Jones replied "definitely."
Sitting at his locker, Jones did not have a sling holding his left arm or look to be in any noticeable discomfort. A rookie last year, Jones rushed for 490 yards on 144 attempts, good for just a 3.4 yards-per-carry average. Washington coach Jay Gruden will need more than that this fall if the team is to improve a rather dull run game last season. Jones knows the expectations are increased, and he's working hard to deliver.
"I just keep taking my practice reps like the game reps. I'm just going to keep that preparation going," he said.
Before the injury against New York, Jones carried the ball well, running seven times for 31 yards, an average of a full yard more than last season. That's the Jones the coach wants to see, and it looks like the shoulder injury shouldn't be too much of an impediment.
"I don’t feel like it’s a setback at all," he said. "I'm actually moving, running around a little bit. It's starting to feel better and better each and every day. I'm just going day by day."