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Need to Know: Redskins' Norman should live up to expectations this year

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Need to Know: Redskins' Norman should live up to expectations this year

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 5, 23 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 177 days ago. It will be 69 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 10; Preseason opener @ Falcons 37; Final roster cut 60

The Redskins week that was

—The Redskins threw 30 touchdown passes last year (Kirk Cousins 29, Colt McCoy 1). That was the most they have had in a season since 1991. But they also gave up 30 TD passes, making three of the last four seasons where they have allowed 30 or more touchdowns through the air. If you have to put on your best offensive performance in 25 years just to break even with what the other side is doing, something has to change. That’s why they wrote out the big check for Josh Norman.

—On Facebook, Keith Murphy asked me if I thought that Norman would live up to expectations. I have to say that I’m reasonably confident about him living up to the deal for the first two or three years, at ages 28-30. He’s healthy, has a lot of tread left on the tires (he had only 22 starts in his first three NFL seasons), and, at least this year, he’s highly motivated to show the Panthers that they made a huge mistake. Later on in the contract, however, I’m a bit more dubious about him living up to the cap hits in the last two years, which are slated to be $14.5 million and $15.5 million. I don't necessarily expect him to fall off a cliff but it will be hard for him to maintain a level of performance that justifies those salaries. But let's get through the first couple of years of the deal before making any grand pronouncements.

—Let’s take one from Twitter.

John is one of the more optimistic Redskins fans on my Twitter feed and I have to say that I don’t think that any Redskins will get such high honors this year. I don’t think that the team is there yet. But in the spirit of fun and taking them in order least likely to most, I don’t think Doctson will play enough to early rookie of the year. A pure corner hasn’t won DPOY since Mel Blount did in 1975 and I don’t see Norman making enough of an impact to break a 40-year skid. If the Redskins win 12-14 games both Cousins and Gruden would have a good shot at winning MVP and COY honors but I don’t think they’re ready to make that leap yet. If they can put it together I’d give Gruden a better shot at the individual honor because there is a lot of competition for the MVP award. A 12-4 mark would almost automatically make Gruden a very strong COY candidate.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.