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Remember when critics tried to call Josh Norman a system corner? They're wrong

Remember when critics tried to call Josh Norman a system corner? They're wrong

The boxscore simply reads: "(8:34) T.Rawls right end to SEA 41 for no gain (J.Norman)."

Remove the NFL jargon, and the play looked like this: On 3rd down midway through the fourth quarter, Seattle running back Thomas Rawls gets the hand off and is headed for the right edge. He has plenty of space, and only needs one yard for a crucial first down. The only man to beat is Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. 

Most cornerbacks don't do well in this situation, but Norman is not most cornerbacks. He brought down Rawls, forcefully, and his tackle meant another Seahawks punt. 

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"His tackle on third-down-and-one, when he tackled the guy by the arm, not that many corners are going to do that," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, "step up there and make that big of a tackle in that type of situation."

Gruden nailed his explanation of the tackle, and it showed the type of player Norman has become for the Redskins. Signed away from the Carolina Panthers in 2016 for his coverage and ballhawking skills, the 29-year-old former 5th round pick has become an overall top defensive player. 

"Josh is a premier corner in the league, in my opinion. He’s the best. You know, not from his cover standpoint, not just from his coverage, but from his tackling," the coach said. 

In 21 starts with the Redskins, Norman has three interceptions. It's a fine total, but not indicative of his impact on games. Perhaps no player in the NFL is better at punching out the football for fumbles than Norman, and off the field, the cornerback has brought an attitude and toughness to the Redskins defense. 

"As an all-around corner, coverage, tackling, leadership, effort, all that stuff, I think he’s up there with the best. It’s great to have him back on the field," Gruden said. "The energy he brings, the passion he brings for the game is contagious."

That passion for football shows.

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Reunited with high school teammate D.J. Swearinger, the Redskins defense is playing at a higher level in 2017 than they did in 2016. The talent has been upgraded, as well as the coaching, but it also seems like Norman has settled into life in Washington. Last season, Norman was still dealing with his surprising release from the Carolina Panthers and an ongoing public dispute with Odell Beckham. 

This year, Norman is established with the Redskins, and even his disputes have grown from angry to funny. Where the tone of Beckham vs Norman in 2016 had real animosity, now Norman is making funny commercials with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The rivalry is still quite real, but the tone has shifted. 

Pro Football Focus ranks Norman as the 16th best cornerback in football through eight games. That's not gospel, but it is an informed metric. 

What metrics can't show, however, is the attitude Norman brings to the Washington defense. The "don't take no crap from anybody" mentality (see full video above).

When the Redskins signed Norman, some critics warned he was just a system corner. A player made to look better by a swarming Panthers defense in a scheme that suited his skills. 

Only a fool would make that case now. Norman has proven that. And more. 

"He’s a Pro Bowl-level corner," Gruden said. "These guys are hard to replace."

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Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

For months, draft conversation suggested that there wasn't an offensive tackle to pick in the Top 10. And after Bradley Chubb, there wasn't an edge defender worth a Top 10 pick either. 

All of a sudden, that conversation is changing. 

Late charges from Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Boston College defensive end Harold Landry and University of Texas San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport are starting to influence mock drafts.

On Wednesday, NFL Network's Peter Schrager predicted the 49ers to take McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick. Charley Casserly, in a mock draft with NBC Sports Washington on Monday, predicted the Chicago Bears take Davenport with the eighth overall pick. Reports on Landry are all over the place, but some guess he could break the Top 10 as well.

The thing to remember about the NFL: It's a passing league. Positions tied to the quarterback are the most important, and that means protecting the QB and getting after the QB is in high demand. No position will ever get over-drafted like quarterback, but it's not a surprise that teams might reach for players at tackle or edge rusher.

What does this mean for the Redskins holding the No. 13 pick?

It means great news. 

Washington will already benefit from four QBs going in the Top 10. That will likely push down an elite talent to their draft spot.

If McGlinchey, Davenport or Landry also crack the Top 10? Even better.

The Redskins need help at just about every position group on the defensive side of the ball. It's well documented how the team struggled against the run in 2017, but the defense also lost Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller this offseason. 

There will be a number of weapons available for Washington at 13, and that could include players like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James in addition to Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne. It might mean Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith lasts to 13 too. 

For the Redskins, Fitzpatrick or James at 13 seems like a steal. Both players present elite potential at the evolving position of nickel cornerback. They can play some corner, some safety, and James might even be able to play some linebacker. 

Regardless of the eventual destination for James or Fitzpatrick, if more surprise players sneak into the Top 10 on Thursday night, the better Washington's options become. And that includes the possibility of trading down, Vea or Payne, Smith or Edmunds.

More elite options at 13 only helps the Redskins. 

Redskins fans should be rooting for Mike McGlinchey, Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport early Thursday night. The folks in Ashburn will be. 

MORE 2018 NFL DRAFT:
- Mock Draft 9.0: Almost draft day
- Top Prospects: RB options for the Redskins
- Top Prospects: WR options for the Redskins
- Need To Know: Rich Tandler's Seven-Round Redskins Mock Draft
- Mega-Mock Predictions: DC Media choose No. 13 pick

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Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the third episode above and more here.

A position change. A school change. A season-ending injury. 

Those are the kinds of things that prevent an NFL career from ever starting. But none of those things stopped Trey Edmunds from reaching the league and contributing for the Saints as a rookie in 2017.

Trey, the oldest brother in a family that features 2018 prospects Tremaine and Terrell, came out of high school as a linebacker, but became a running back after enrolling at Virginia Tech. After three productive seasons with the Hokies, he transferred to finish up his career with Maryland, yet his senior season was cut short after fracturing his foot five games in to the schedule.

That injury was a big reason why the 2017 NFL Draft came and went without a phone call for Edmunds, so he signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in May. There, he played spot duty on special teams for much of his rookie campaign before his breakout moment in November:

Now, heading into his second pro year, Edmunds will reportedly have to fight for a roster spot in New Orleans again. But hey, adversity is something the 23-year-old is very familiar with, so don't bet against him.