By DUSTIN THOMAS
On April 22, a new swagger was brought to the D.C. sports scene. The Washington Redskins announced the signing of Pro-Bowl cornerback Josh Norman to a 5-year, $75 million contract. Norman, who spent last season being a dominate force in the secondary for NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, signed with Washington because of “the sense of wanting to win,” as he explained in an interview on Sportscenter just days later. Because of this key addition to the roster and a successful training camp and preseason, many analysts predicted to repeat as NFC East champions this season.
The spotlight could not have been any bigger for the Redskins to show the nation that they were ready to repeat. When you play on Monday Night Football, the viewer numbers are a lot higher, more people are watching, especially the very first MNF game of the year. The talk of the whole pre-game show was the highly anticipated matchup between Norman and four-time Pro-Bowler Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers who many consider to be the best wide receiver in football.
The Redskins run a zone defensive scheme, which limits Norman to only playing cornerback on the left side of the defense. The Redskins claim that they have “faith in Bashaud Breeland” and “in a zone defense, it messes up the scheme to have a corner shadow a specific receiver all over the field.” This allowed the Steelers to pick apart Breeland in their 38-16 trounce on national television. Brown caught eight passes for 126 yards, 113 of which came against Breeland, and two touchdowns.
After the game, former and current players let their frustrations be known as to why they are paying someone so much money to not do what he does best. New York Giants receiver, who the Redskins will face this Sunday, called out Norman by saying, “Especially if he calls himself — I don’t call him this, he calls himself the best corner in the league — then you have to go cover the best receivers on the other team.” Norman has history with Cruz’s fellow teammate Odell Beckham Jr. and many hope to see the Norman vs. OBJ matchup later this season.
Norman had a chance to quiet his critics this past Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys but before the game the team announced that they, “plan stick to their scheme and Josh Norman will be covering the left side of the field and not Dez Bryant.” Even though two time Pro- Bowler Bryant did not have as big of a game as Brown, seven catches for 102 yards, the Redskins lost 27-23 and the Redskins’ defensive scheme was brought up in question.
Now all eyes are on Sunday’s matchup against the 2-0 New York Giants and Norman’s test against Beckham Jr. to see if the reigning NFC East champions can dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole.