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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 22, the day the Washington Redskins play the Carolina Panthers.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

CHAROLOTTE—A final look at today’s game as the Redskins try to knock the Panthers from the ranks of the undefeated.

—The Redskins started out great when it comes to starting out great. In their first six games the opposing team was shut out on its initial possession—the drives resulted in four punts, a fumble, and an interception. But in the last three games that pattern has changed. The Bucs, Patriots, and Saints all scored touchdowns the first time they had the ball. The visiting team needs to get off to a better start today.

—Like many games, this seems like the kind of game that will come down to turnovers. The Redskins had a turnover-free game last Sunday against the Saints after having given the ball away at least once in their previous 20 games. They will need to keep that up. The Redskins are 4-0 when Kirk Cousins doesn’t throw any interceptions and 0-5 when he throws at least one. Cam Newton had a three-pick game against the Eagles and was intercepted twice against the Seahawks. Passes will be in the air for the taking.

—You’ve heard about Cam and TE Greg Olsen all week. The other two offensive weapons to watch are RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Ted Ginn. Stewart is on pace to gain about 1,200 yards rushing and he will chew up yards and clock if the Redskins haven’t fixed their problems with rushing defense. Ginn is having a career renaissance at the age of 30. He’s the Panthers’ second-leading receiver with 25 catches and he’s averaging over 16 yards per reception. It’s possible that the Redskins hold down production from Olsen and Newton but get beaten by Ginn and Stewart.

—Somebody, anybody on the Redskins’ linebacker corps needs to step up. The group has been one of the stronger units on the team the past few years but not in 2015. Ryan Kerrigan wasn’t generating much consistent pass rush even before he suffered a broken hand. On the other side, Trent Murphy is good against the run but generating little pass rush and Preston Smith can’t develop the consistency he needs to take the starting job away from him. On the inside, Keenan Robinson has had lots of issues with missed tackles and Perry Riley looks lost at times. Will Compton has been competent filling in and now as the starter but he needs to find his next level. If they are going to contain Cam and Olsen one or more will have to have a big game.

—If the Redskins had shown an ability to win on the road any time in the last calendar year, I’d probably pick them to win this game. The Panthers are unbeaten but they have shown they are not unbeatable. I think the Redskins will be able to move the ball on the ground. With all of their defensive backs now healthy they will be able to mix and match coverage on Olsen. They should keep it close and have some chances to pull out a win. But eight straight losses is a trend that just can’t be ignored. I suppose you could say that the Redskins are due for a win away from home. Until they show me, however, I just can’t pick them to win. Panthers take a close one.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Panthers, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until: Giants @ Redskins 7; Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 15; Redskins @ Bears 21

In case you missed it

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'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

NFC East opponents don't challenge Josh Norman. Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Jr. are fake tough, no real threat to him. Not like some other receivers in the NFL. 

At least that's how the Redskins corner described them in a wide-ranging interview with Bleacher Report published on Thursday. 

The gist? The Cowboys and Giants stars get no respect from Norman, though both were involved in memorable feuds with him the past year. 

Norman got his first opportunity to talk trash when asked to do word association with the name "Dez Bryant." He took the opening and returned it for a touchdown. 

"That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy," Norman said.

"He doesn't 'wow' you. For me, he don't. For other guys, he probably will do the worst to them because he'll bully them. But you can't bully a bully. You know what I'm saying? That's why his game doesn't resonate to me."

To jog your memory, Norman and Bryant went at it after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving last year. Bryant said Washington should get a refund on Norman's contract. There was also drama about whether Norman falsely accused Bryant of threatening to "unload the clip" on him.

Real mature, substantive conflict. 

RELATED: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

The Redskins corner didn't go any easier on Beckham, who of all receivers in the league has had the most explosive run-ins with Norman. 

In fact, Beckham's helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman in a 2015 contest between the Giants and Panthers led the NFL to change rules for ejections. Beckham had racked up three unnecessary roughness penalties in that game. 

"[Beckham] tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other," Norman said, suggesting that he's able to push OBJ over the edge and out of control. 

"He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy."

"When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man," Norman concluded.

It must have been an exercise in restraint not to mention OBJ's kicking-net tantrum after losing to the Redskins last year. 

As the interview moved on, there wasn't a receiver that drew respect from Norman until the name Julio Jones came up. Norman got to see the Falcons receiver twice a year when he played for Carolina in the NFC South. 

"Now, that is the ultimate challenge. That's when I can do things in a split-second, a millisecond, just choo-choo-choo," Norman said of facing Jones. He said he's missed that challenge since moving to the NFC East. 

"It's the worst. Because I'm just battling 'guys.' I'm not battling against something I can call 'greatness.' I'm not enhancing my craft. Don't get me wrong. They're tough. But they're not [Jones]," he said. He also named Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey as other receivers who could provide a real test. 

But whether those matchups excite Norman or not, he knows they can't touch the hype of NFC East showdowns, especially ones involving Beckham. 

"That game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!"

The interview ended with Norman looking forward to playing with new Redskins safety DJ Swearinger, who has a reputation as a hard-hitting intimidator.

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year. 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. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't. And I know they don't have that many people on the offense who do on their side."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

MORE REDSKINS: Josh Doctson ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

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Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

Redskins WR Josh Doctson is ready to show the NFL, "I'm good at what I do"

An Achilles injury robbed Josh Doctson of the bulk of his rookie season with the Redskins. After a strenuous offseason spent rehabbing and a clean bill of health, Doctson is ready to fight back.

"It feels good to be back out here with them and to be playing football again," Doctson said Wednesday at Redskins OTAs (full video above). "It's what I’ve been doing for a long time, it's why I’m here. I'm good at what I do."

Sure it's May and there was no contact, but Doctson showed how good he can look on Wednesday. He caught a number of balls throughout the two hour session and looked smooth in his routes. The second-year pro from TCU makes cuts while maintaining speed and balance, and the skills allowed him to get open a number of times to haul in passes using soft hands.

"Right now, so far, so good," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I like the way he looks, like the way he runs and love the way he catches."

Late in the OTA session, Colt McCoy found Doctson for a deep touchdown. While the sidelines erupted, Doctson just calmly jogged back to the line of scrimmage and talked with coaches. 

Doctson explained that to "show my teammates, coaches and myself again that I can play with these guys, play at this level, it feels real good."

The Redskins will need the 6-foot-2, 202 lbs. Doctson this fall. With the exit of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards left the Washington offense. Free agent addition Terrelle Pryor will be expected to pick up a large chunk of that yardage, but Doctson will need to offset that loss as well.

"He’s been impressive. I think the big thing for him is the confidence in his Achilles and I think he’s got that right now. I saw him out there today and yesterday, the last two days he’s looked better and better. It looks like he can run down the field," Gruden said.

Doctson described the pain in his Achilles as "pretty much non-existent now."

Never a good place to look for nuanced analysis, last season some social media speculation suggested Doctson was homesick dealing with his injury. That theory seems foolish, as the receiver spent the entire offseason in Ashburn, working out and rehabbing.

"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling healthy," he said. "I got after it every day. It’s a tribute to my hard work why I'm feeling so feeling healthy."

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