josh norman

Eagles-Redskins 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles haven't fared well against Washington in recent years. In fact, the Birds have lost their last five contests against their division rival, including both games last season. 

The two losses against Washington last season came by a total of 12 points. 

This is a big game for the Eagles. A win could start off their season on the right track, especially before a really tough game against the Chiefs on the road in Week 2. 

So here's a look at five matchups that will play a major role on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field: 

Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan 
You probably remember what happened in the first matchup between the Eagles and Washington last year. Back on Oct. 16, Johnson's 10-game PED suspension kicked in and the Eagles were left with rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. Eventually, Vaitai ended up having a pretty decent rookie season but it didn't get off to a great start. In fact, his introduction to the NFL was pretty ugly and he can thank Kerrigan for that. Carson Wentz was sacked five times in the game and half of them belonged to the veteran pass rusher. 

After missing both games against Washington in 2016, Johnson is back and hoping for a little revenge. In fact, he's already said the Eagles are going to "whup some ass" in the opener. 

"First of all, [Kerrigan] is a great player," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's a high-motor guy, a relentless finish. That's what you have to identify with him. It's good to have Lane back. Obviously, that was V's first start last year and he struggled in the game. To have Lane back, a little confidence there. Should be a good matchup all day, and just have to give the guy respect. He's a good pass rusher."

Jamison Crowder vs. Patrick Robinson 
After a terrible start to training camp, Robinson rebounded once Ronald Darby was acquired. That move pushed him inside and he found a home in the slot position for the Eagles. For the most part, that will be a position by committee this season, but against a shifty player like Crowder, Robinson should get first crack, while Malcolm Jenkins will have to deal with tight end Jordan Reed. 

For as much attention as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon got over the last couple years, Crowder has turned into a really solid option. He had 67 catches for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. Against the Eagles last year, he had five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. He's a big part of Washington's offense. 

Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Scherff, Washington's right guard, went to his first Pro Bowl in 2016, a year after he was taken in the first round out of Iowa. It's a big matchup, because there's a good chance Scherff will go 1-on-1 against Cox, who doesn't see a ton of 1-on-1 matchups anymore. 

"[Scherff] does the little things right," Cox said. "You just have to study him and watch the things that he's gotten beat on. Just study him and just study their line because I think they have a solid group of guys that play together on the same page." 

Kirk Cousins always seems to bring his best games against the Eagles, so Cox's ability to generate pressure could potentially change the game. 

Zach Ertz vs. Redskins safeties
Ertz had one bad game against Washington in 2016 and one great game. In the first matchup, he had one catch for 22 yards, but the next time, he had 10 for 112. Of course, that second game was in December, when Ertz seems to come alive. But there will be chances for Ertz on Sunday, especially because Washington will be without safety Su'a Cravens, who is contemplating retirement. That leaves Washington with D.J. Swearinger and Deshazor Everett at safety. Neither are known for their cover skills. 

Alshon Jeffery vs. Josh Norman
Expect Norman to travel and stick with Jeffery for the entire game on Sunday. Washington head coach Jay Gruden on Wednesday said he didn't know if that's what he would do, but it seems pretty clear that's what will happen. 

Last year when Jeffery faced Washington as a member of the Bears, Norman stayed with him all game. Jeffery ended the game with five catches on 10 targets for 92 yards. 

"Alshon won his share and Josh won his share," Pederson said. "It's a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other and it's great competition."

Eagles expecting boisterous Josh Norman to shadow Alshon Jeffery

Eagles expecting boisterous Josh Norman to shadow Alshon Jeffery

Alshon Jeffery is every bit as quiet as Josh Norman is loud and boisterous. 

So there's a good chance Washington's brash cornerback will start to talk trash on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. There's also a good chance Jeffery will simply shrug his shoulders and jog back to the huddle seemingly unfazed.

Trash-talking isn't Jeffery's thing. It's Norman's bread and butter. 

Jeffery and Norman faced off last year on Christmas Eve in Chicago when Jeffery was still with the Bears. Norman traveled and lined up against Jeffery on every snap. On Wednesday, Jeffery said he couldn't recall if Norman talked trash in that game. 

But with Norman's track record, there's a pretty darn good chance he did. And there's also a pretty good chance Jeffery shrugged his shoulders and jogged back to the huddle. 

"I just go out and just play football," Jeffery said on Wednesday afternoon. "I let my game do the talking. All that other stuff will take care of itself."

The two will battle again this week as the Eagles open their season in Washington against a division foe. While Washington's head coach Jay Gruden said the team hasn't yet decided if Norman will travel to cover Jeffery throughout the game, the Eagles aren't going to buy that type of indecision. They're preparing as if Norman will spend his afternoon in Jeffery's grill. After all, Gruden didn't commit to traveling Norman but did hint that way. 

"We know what kind of threat [Jeffery] is," Gruden said.  

Recently, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went back and watched every one of Jeffery's targets in Chicago from the last couple of seasons. That included last year's game against Norman, when Jeffery caught five of 10 targets for 92 yards. 

"I just wanted to go back and, No. 1, see him against Josh Norman," Pederson said. "I think it's important to see how he played, good or bad. How did Josh play him? I think you can learn a lot from that. And then just watch the type of routes he was running. There's good and bad on the film. It's not all the positives; it's not a highlight film, by no means. It's the good and the bad. Alshon won his share and Josh won his share. It's a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other and it's great competition. I just wanted to see how he handled a little pressure in those situations."

Jeffery said he doesn't get more amped up or even care who covers him, but he does seem impressed with Norman as a cornerback. He compared him to his teammate in Chicago, two-time Pro Bowler Charles "Peanut" Tillman because of the way Norman makes plays on the ball. 

Norman can be an aggressive player — is there a way to take advantage of that?  

Well, Jeffery said he and Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh, who was also with him in Chicago, would work every day with Tillman. Those lessons taught Jeffery how to play against a player like that, who is always trying to punch the football out. 

"Figuring out ways to catch the ball and keep the defenders from breaking up the ball," Jeffery said. 

Jeffery enters this season on a one-year deal with something to prove. After two straight 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and 2014, he had just 807 receiving yards in 2015 and just 821 in a 12-game season in 2016. He's hoping to regain form after teaming up with Carson Wentz in Philly. 

The Eagles used Jeffery sparingly in this preseason and even in training camp, when Jeffery suffered a shoulder injury and was then held out even after he healed thanks to a decision by Pederson. 

Eagles fans haven't gotten to see much of Jeffery so far, so Sunday will be an exciting day. 

"I definitely encountered it. Everyone is telling me how excited they are to see me play," Jeffery said. "At the same time, I'm excited myself. I can't wait to see what I'm going to do out there myself. Sunday is going to take care of itself. We're just going to go out there and play our ball."

Jeffery is one of a few new additions to the Eagles' offense, along with Torrey Smith and running back LeGarrette Blount. With a healthy offensive line and a more experienced Wentz, expectations for the offense have risen in 2017. 

"Hopefully we go out there and we score a lot of points," Jeffery said. "That's all I expect. As long as we get the win, that's all that matters."

NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott's attorney says ban upheld, but RB will play Week 1

NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott's attorney says ban upheld, but RB will play Week 1

SHERMAN, Texas -- An arbitrator denied Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of a six-game suspension in a domestic violence case Tuesday, but the 2016 NFL rushing champion will play in the opener because of the timing of the decision.

Elliott attorney Jeffrey Kessler told the judge near the end of a nearly 2 1/2-hour hearing in federal court that Elliott's suspension was sustained by arbitrator Harold Henderson.

At the start of the hearing, NFL attorney Daniel Nash told the judge it was "his understanding" that Elliott could play Sunday night against the New York Giants because the league didn't want to rush the judge.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant said he would rule on Elliott's request for a temporary restraining order by Friday. If the request is denied and no further legal action taken, Elliott's suspension would start in Week 2 at Denver. He would be eligible to return Nov. 5 against Kansas City (see full story).

Redskins: Norman seeks return to All-Pro form
ASHBURN, Va. -- Through his tinted visor, Josh Norman says he sees offenses like they're on repeat. He feels like he anticipates what's next.

"You find a beat because you watched the film study early on in the week and then a certain situation is telling me what is going to come," Norman said. "I don't even think about it."

Norman's vision enables him be one of the top-flight cornerbacks in the league, and his pride keeps him on the field longer than any other Washington Redskins player after practice. With a "sour taste" in his mouth from last season when he didn't make the Pro Bowl and was the league's most penalized player, Norman has been working on his closing speed and even more anticipation skills because he senses a big year coming.

In new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's scheme, Norman will have more freedom to sit off some of the game's top receivers and read plays. The result could be even more difference-making plays from the 29-year-old who loves nothing more than standing out when it matters.

"It's going to be a fun year," Norman said with a smile. "I get to get back and sit in that coverage where I see things, and I can go and attack much faster."

Jets: Kerley returns to New York on 1-year contract
NEW YORK -- The New York Jets have signed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley to a one-year deal, reuniting with a player who spent his first five NFL seasons with the franchise.

To make room on the roster Tuesday, the Jets waived fullback Julian Howsare.

Kerley adds a veteran presence and familiar face to a mostly inexperienced receiving group. With 246 catches, the 28-year-old Kerley has the most receptions among the team's receivers. Jermaine Kearse, acquired from Seattle last Friday for Sheldon Richardson, is next with 153. Kerley will also likely serve as the Jets' primary punt returner.

Kerley was a fifth-round pick of the Jets out of TCU in 2011. He was released in March 2016, signed with Detroit and traded before the season to San Francisco, where he had a career-high 64 catches. The 49ers released him last Saturday.

Panthers: Newton says it’s ‘unfair’ Kaepernick not on a roster
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton became the latest NFL player to voice his support of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, saying it's "unfair" that he's not on a roster.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback asked and answered a few of his own questions on Tuesday:

"Do I think Kaepernick is better than some of these starting quarterbacks in this league? Absolutely.

"Should he be on a roster ...? Absolutely.

"Is he good enough to be a starting quarterback? Absolutely."

Newton and the Panthers are preparing to play Kaepernick's former team, the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

There are players who believe Kaepernick, who had a better passer rating than roughly half the starting QBs in the league in 2016, has been blackballed by teams for choosing to kneel during the national anthem in protest to police violence and social injustice (see full story).