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Redskins Playbook: Shadow coverage, and more, in play for Josh Norman in 2017

Redskins Playbook: Shadow coverage, and more, in play for Josh Norman in 2017

Josh Norman came to Washington last season with the reputation as the best cornerback in the NFL. He played well his first year with the Redskins, but statistically, his numbers weren't enough to get to the Pro Bowl.

A number of would-be interceptions slipped through Norman's fingers, seemingly every week, and his play outpaced his INT total. Still, especially early in the year, it seemed the Redskins weren't maximizing Norman's value. 

Never was that more apparent than the first two weeks of the season when the Redskins got burnt by Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Dallas' Dez Bryant. Former Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry insisted that Norman not shadow the opposition's best wideout. Eventually, that strategy changed, but not until much damage was inflicted. 

With Greg Manusky now in charge of the 'Skins defense, will Norman travel with the other team's best receiver? 

"Will we do that? Yeah," Manusky said last week after an OTA session.

Manusky explained that it's "important" to allow corners to travel with certain receivers, but he also won't demand it if a player isn't comfortable. The full answer made clear that the Redskins won't force Norman to move with wideouts, but at the same time, expect the $75 million corner to have more opportunities to make plays. 

"I think just from a football perspective, he feels it and he knows it," Manusky said of Norman. "And I think they’re the players that you want on the field and that’s what he has. He has that feel for it, and when the ball is coming out, he can break on it."

That could mean more off-man coverage for Norman, allowing him to watch the offense develop more than press coverage allows. 

"In a situation with Josh, we’re trying to play him a little bit off and have vision and see the quarterback, man-to-man situations and in zones, [it’s] something that he’s I think been taught a little bit before but some of that is a little bit different, and he’s made some plays," Manusky said. 

Think back through the Redskins 16 games last season, and Norman easily could have doubled his interception total just by hanging on to a few more footballs. He's an elite athlete, and it would not be crazy to think that total will jump in 2017. 

Manusky seems ready to let Norman make plays, which suits a playmaker.

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2017 NFL Power Rankings: Both conferences are wide open through six weeks

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2017 NFL Power Rankings: Both conferences are wide open through six weeks

Through six weeks of the NFL season, it's clear who the Super Bowl favorites are.

In the AFC, it's, um, well, OK, let's do the NFC first. In the NFC, you have to watch out for — actually, nevermind, this isn't that easy.

CLICK HERE FOR NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

The Chiefs and Eagles are the only two teams standing at 5-1, but there are quite a few 4-2 squads right behind them, as well as talented 3-win teams who can take any opponent down if they bring their best stuff. That means that as the halfway point approaches, both conferences are still open races.

And those races got a lot more interesting after a fun Week 6. The power rankings look a lot different than they did before the weekend because of Week 6's results, too.

So, click the link above or below to see who's moving up and who's sliding back. Or, in the case of the Browns, who's sliding but staying in the same spot simply because they can't be dropped any further.

CLICK HERE FOR NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S UPDATED NFL POWER RANKINGS

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Five things that aren't being talked about enough from the Redskins-49ers game

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Five things that aren't being talked about enough from the Redskins-49ers game

Did you guys know C.J. Beathard is related to former Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard?

Of course you do, because that storyline, as well as others like the Vernon Davis fumble(?) and Pierre Garçon penalty have been talked about plenty following the Redskins' 26-24 W over the 49ers on Sunday.

But there are other angles that have been under analyzed from the Week 6 matchup. So as fun as it is to celebrate Chris Thompson's brilliance, put that on hold for a minute and think about these five discussion points.

1) A big recovery by a big man 

One of the most underappreciated plays in football is a fumble recovery by an offensive player. Most of the time, players and fans are just mad that the offense fumbled and ignore the fact that the outcome could've been a whole lot worse.

Do you remember Trent Williams falling on a Chris Thompson fumble early on the Redskins' first drive? Maybe some of you do, but plenty of others probably don't. But because Williams was aware and smothered the ball before a Niner defender could, the Redskins were able to continue their possession and eventually finish it with a touchdown.

MORE: WHERE JONATHAN ALLEN WILL BE MISSED MOST

2) Kirk's questionable decision

Kirk Cousins provided what proved to be the game's deciding points with his fourth quarter read option touchdown. But it was an earlier run that could've been much more important, and not for the right reason.

On Washington's previous possession — which concluded with a 21-yard field goal — Cousins scrambled for an 18-yard gain, but instead of sliding at the end, he decided to take on San Fran safety Jimmie Ward. The two collided and thumped each other pretty hard, and while the QB may have earned some respect, he also said postgame that Williams immediately reminded him that he should've slid instead.

Was it entertaining to watch a signal caller try and run over a safety? Sure. But was it smart? Not at all. The Packers saw their star quarterback come out on the wrong end of a punishing hit Sunday, and the Redskins just as easily could be feeling their pain.

3) Samaje's second effort

Samaje Perine has a long way to go before he becomes the player many hoped he'd be when the Redskins snagged him in April's draft. But it was him traveling a short distance in the fourth quarter against the 49ers that was a crucial yet overlooked play.

Six snaps before Cousins' rushing TD, the rookie barely converted on a third-and-2 by pushing the pile and refusing to be brought down short of the sticks. Again, his first year as a pro hasn't been excellent, but that was one he deserves credit for.

4) A way too powerful punt

The Redskins' execution after recovering that late onsides kick wasn't just bad on offense. Tress Way's touchback was unsightly, too.

Even after Washington took a delay of game penatly to give their punter more room, Way booted his kick well into the end zone instead of forcing the Niners' returner to fair catch or giving his gunners a chance to down it. Next time, Way needs to use a little less club and force the opposing offense to start farther back than their own 20.

RELATED: WHY CAN'T THE REDSKINS HOLD ON TO LEADS?

5) Dunbar delivers

Perhaps because of all the injuries in the secondary, as well as an abundance of other things to chat about, a really strong performance from Quinton Dunbar isn't getting the necessary recognition. 

The visitors threw at Josh Norman's replacement often — 14 instances, to be specific — but he more than held his own, ending the contest as PFF's highest-graded 'Skin. Jay Gruden said earlier in the week Dunbar thinks he can cover "anybody, anywhere, anytime," and for the most part on Sunday, No. 47 did just that.