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Josh Norman says with new Redskins defense, 'Everything is about football, nothing else'

Josh Norman says with new Redskins defense, 'Everything is about football, nothing else'

In 2016, the Redskins defense struggled, ranking near the bottom in a number of categories. Their third down defense landed among historic lows, and besides sacks, no position group can claim they performed particularly well. 

The Redskins biggest addition last season was the arrival of Josh Norman. He played well, though he missed a number of interceptions and racked up an inordinate amount of penalties. 

Norman's arrival brought with it a lot of attention, as his release from his franchise tag with the Panthers came via unusual circumstances. His rivalry with Odell Beckham also carried a lot of visibility, and it seemed almost from the start, Norman was working to adjust to life with a new team while figuring out a new system.

Last week, Norman said he thought 2016 was his best season as a pro because he proved he wasn't a system guy like some claimed of his success in Carolina. Norman, though, believes the 2017 Redskins will be much better than last year's version.

"We're building something great, small steps first. We got guys that are really actually in the thick of things. Lockjaw. Dogs," Norman said (full video above). "Everything is about football, nothing else. That's what you need."

MORE REDSKINS: HERE'S WHAT THE NEW DB'S COACH IS DOING DIFFERENTLY  

Listening to Norman, it's easy to think about all of the distractions that popped up for him and the Redskins this time last year. This offseason, the franchise invested heavily in the defense.

The team used their first three draft picks on defensive players for the first time in 20 years, and took a defensive lineman in the first round for the first time in 20 years. D.J. Swearinger arrived via free agency, and he could be a big piece in stabilizing the secondary.

"He brings that attitude to our defense," Norman said of Swearinger. 

Already on the practice fields, it seems Swearinger is shouting out coverages and play design pre-snap more than last year's safeties did. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger as the 8th best safety in the NFL last season. Will Blackmon was the Redskins highest rated safety in 2016, and he ranked 29th. No knock on Blackmon, as he was converting from corner to safety anyway.

It's easy to be optimistic in June, but Norman seems genuine thinking this defense could be different. With Swearinger, and Zach Brown at linebacker and rookie Jonathan Allen up front, the Redskins defense has new horses from the front to the back in the interior. That should help.

For Norman though, it's the work ethic that stands out. No defensive player missed a single voluntary OTA session, and the from the first team to the third team, the group seems engaged and fired up on the sidelines.

"Nothing but football, eat, sleep, drink it. We got guys that are hungry," Norman said. "You look for those guys that want to prove something, because when you have those guys, man, the sky’s the limit, you can do whatever you want to do."

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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