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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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Per report, league admits to getting Kirk Cousins' intentional grounding call wrong

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USA TODAY Sports

Per report, league admits to getting Kirk Cousins' intentional grounding call wrong

NEW ORLEANS—The Redskins apparently were on the wrong end of a bad call late in their game against the Saints on Sunday and, according to a report, the league admitted it.

Per Mike Jones of USA Today, a league official told Redskins president Bruce Allen that intentional grounding should not have been called against Kirk Cousins with the game tied with 28 seconds left in regulation on Sunday.

The rule is clear. From the NFL rule book:

It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.

There wasn’t a Saints defender within a few yards of Cousins when he threw the ball. The pass was not to prevent a sack, it was a mixup with receiver Jamison Crowder.

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But the men in stripes conferred and dropped a flag. The penalty was 10 yards, a loss of down, and a 10-second clock runoff. So instead of second and 10 at the 34 with time to run a few more plays, it was second and 20 at the 44 with time running out. The Redskins have every right to believe that they were robbed.

However, they also robbed themselves. The litany of self-inflicted problems is there for anyone who watched the game to see. From not being able to get a touchdown on the board early after D.J. Swearinger’s interception in Saints territory, to committing a false start lining up for a field goal try near the end of the first half, to the inability to get a yard on third and one and to the helplessness of the defense against Drew Brees in the final six minutes of regulation. The mistake by referee Walt Coleman’s crew was glaring but it was far from the only entry on the list of reasons the Redskins lost.

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The thing is, it shouldn’t have been on the list at all. At least one official on the field is always able to communicate with the suits at 345 Park Avenue. They handle the replays from the league office and we get all kinds of strange interpretations of what a catch is or isn’t. Why can’t someone in New York get in the ear of someone in stripes on the field and say, “Hey, don’t drop that flag, he wasn’t under pressure?”

The technology to prevent a misinterpretation of the rules by the officials on the field is in place right now. It could be done with minimal disruption to the game. It’s a crime that the league won’t use it.

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

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Need to Know: Five Key plays in Redskins vs. Saints

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: Five Key plays in Redskins vs. Saints

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Monday, November 20, three days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Jay Gruden press conference 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 10
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 20
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 27

Five key plays in Redskins vs Saints

D.J. Swearinger interception in the first quarter—Although the Redskins didn’t fully capitalize on the takeaway in Saints territory—they got a field goal—the play helped the Redskins jump on top in what would be a back-and-forth first half. Swearinger has three interceptions in the last two games.

Fourth and six pass to Vernon Davis for 26 yards—This was the first of two fourth-down gambles Gruden took. This one was from the New Orleans 39. This one paid off in spades as Kirk Cousins found Davis for a first down at the Saints 13. Three plays later Samaje Perine got in from a yard out. That made it 17-10 and the Redskins would not trail again until, well, you know.

False start when lined up for field goal—Things were going great for the Redskins as they had a nice drive going at the end of the half. The advance stalled and they lined up for a 51-yard field goal try. But there was a false start on the play and the Redskins had to punt. Josh Holsey almost downed it inside the one but he shuffled his feet one too many times and he fielded the ball with his heels on the goal line stripe, resulting in a touchback. That gave the Saints the field position they needed to drive for a field goal as time ran out.  

Fourth and one fake punt—The Redskins had just seen Chris Thompson get carted off the field after suffering a broken fibula in his right leg. It was fourth and one at the Washington 15 and they lined up in punt formation. Niles Paul took the direct snap and powered up the middle for five yards. Apparently inspired by the big, uh, courage shown by Jay Gruden on that, the Redskins continued the drive and got into the end zone on a 40-yard pass from Cousins to Ryan Grant. That put the Redskins up 24-13 with 1:44 left in the third.

Third and one Perine for minus-1—I don’t think I need go into much detail here, you know what happened.

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

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