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Norman will be tested early and often in 2016

Norman will be tested early and often in 2016

New Redskins cornerback Josh Norman will be tested early and often when the season gets underway in September. Things could get heated even before the already-anticipated Week 3 game against Odell Beckham Jr.

Right out of the gate Norman will be challenged by All-Pro Antonio Brown of the Steelers, who caught 136 passes for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then a healthy Dez Bryant comes to town with the Cowboys. He was slowed down with a foot injury and was not his dominant self in 2015. Bryant should be raring to go in Week 2.

Before going too far into the schedule here one thing that is important to note is that these will not necessarily be game-long, one-on-one matchups between the No. 1 receiver and Norman. The Redskins play a lot of zone, very similar to the scheme that Norman was in when he was an All-Pro with the Panthers. He is unlikely to follow receivers like Beckham and Bryant from side to side. But it’s a safe bet that if it’s a critical situation and the ball is in the air with the No. 1 receiver as the target, Norman will be somewhere in the picture.

Back to the schedule, the meeting at MetLife Stadium against Beckham and the Giants is getting plenty of hype already. Had the schedule makers know that Norman would be wearing burgundy and gold they might have made his a prime time affair. It should not noted that while Norman got into Beckham’s head that day, he did not shut him down. Beckham caught six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.

In Week 6 the division’s potential rising star at receiver, Jordan Matthews, comes to FedEx Field. Two weeks later on the other side of the pond it’s Norman and A.J. Green of the Bengals.

Week 11 brings Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers to FedEx for a Sunday night game. After a rematch with Dez it’s on to Arizona where Norman will match up with possible Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.

Under the tree on Christmas Eve, Norman find the Bears’ duo of Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. The former has established himself as a threat while White is a promising first-year player who missed his rookie season with an injury.

Then, on New Year’s Day make sure you can get rid of your hangover quickly so that you can enjoy Norman-Beckham II.

If Norman can again earn All-Pro honors going up against that slate of pass catchers he will have earned his pay this year. 

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8 snap counts and judgments from Redskins' win over Buccaneers and beyond

8 snap counts and judgments from Redskins' win over Buccaneers and beyond

Time for our weekly review of the Washington Redskins snap counts, plus some big picture thoughts one day after Sunday’s 16-3 road victory at Tampa Bay.

♦The Redskins didn’t boldly acquire safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before the recent NFL trade deadline for him to look cool on the sideline in his No. 20 jersey. After mixing the ex-Packer in for 71 percent of the defensive snaps against the Falcons in his debut days after the trade, Clinton-Dix joined fellow safety D. J. Swearinger on the field for all 69 defensive snaps against the Buccaneers.

Clinton-Dix finished third in tackles (8) against Tampa Bay. The free safety racking up that many tackles isn’t ideal for the defense, of course. He did recover a fumble and was credited with a single pass defended.

♦Jonathan Allen (43), Daron Payne (42) and Matt Ioannidis (43) all played a bit less than normal. Chalk it up to the coaching staff keeping players fresh in the warm conditions. Tim Settle (11) only received five snaps over the previous four games. Stacy McGee (11) made his season debut after the Redskins activated him from the PUP list this week.

♦Cassanova McKinzy didn’t just make his defensive debut for the Redskins. The outside linebacker:

  • Played more defensive snaps (24) than 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson (22)
  • Was active game day ahead of veteran Pernell McPhee
  • Played late in the fourth quarter with the game result still in the balance

That’s quite extraordinary for the 25-year-old undrafted free agent who moved from the practice squad to the 53-man roster multiple times this season. That the Redskins deactivated McPhee automatically sent a signal something was up considering the limited outside linebacker depth.

McKinzy finished with one official tackle, essentially falling on Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Tampa Bay quarterback gathered a fumble. The former Auburn Tiger’s biggest play, a strip-sack and fumble recovery inside Washington’s 20-yard-line, was wiped out by a Josh Norman holding penalty.

Anderson was not officially credited with a tackle or forced fumble, though he clearly punched the ball away from Bucs running Jacquizz Rodgers. Clinton-Dix recovered the ball in the end zone for one of the defense’s four turnovers.

McPhee, who was added this offseason in free agency as pass rush help, had zero sacks in eight games. His playing time ranged from 18-24 percent of defensive snaps this season.

♦Ryan Kerrigan (64 percent) and Preston Smith (70) both played their least percentage of snaps this season. Again, we’ll assume this usage a nod to the heat thrown down by Mother Nature.

♦Whatever blame Zach Brown felt from the coaching staff, it didn’t reflect in his playing time; the 75 percent of snaps meshed with previous weekly amounts.

♦Wide receiver snaps: Josh Doctson (45), Maurice Harris (38), Michael Floyd (31), Brian Quick (21). Percentage-wise, Doctson and Harris ticked down in part because the three tight ends each played 45 percent of the snaps in the same game for the first time this season. The need for more run-blocking in light of the offensive line issues likely played a factor in more work for Floyd.

♦Danny Johnson (18) played early in place of the inactive Quinton Dunbar, but ultimately fellow rookie cornerback Greg Stroman (39) more than doubled his snap total. Both players were credited with a pass defended, but Stroman added an interception and a forced fumble. Either rookie will be challenged in Week 11 against the Texans receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas if Dunbar sits again.

♦Random stat for the win: Alex Smith finished with EXACTLY 178 passing yards for the third time in four games. Equally amazing considering NFL offenses in 2018, the Redskins are 3-0 in those games. They lost to Atlanta in Week 9 when Smith finished with 306 yards as Washington played catch-up.

Props to the Redskins for Sunday’s gritty win. The NFC East leaders, now 6-3 overall and 2-0 in the division, hold a two-game lead over the 4-5 Cowboys and Eagles. Winning just three of their final seven games might be enough to win the division. One can’t win the Super Bowl without making the playoffs, so let’s not discount the potential achievement, especially after zero postseason appearances since 2015.

There’s a difference between qualifying for the playoffs and truly contending. It’s hard projecting Washington as a true contender based on recent performances and current injuries.

The defense, which allowed 501 net yards yet only three points at Tampa Bay, did the best version of bend but don’t break in NFL history. Seriously, this isn’t a joke.

The Redskins forced the Buccaneers into methodical mode offensively. The more plays run, the more chances for mistakes. Fitzpatrick and crew made plenty while Washington defenders consistently held strong in the red zone. That’s probably not good enough most week against steadier offenses. Let’s not forget Atlanta struck for 38 points and 491 yards in Week 9. Among the league leaders in yards allowed per game for most of the season, the Redskins now rank 17th (361.0).

The concern, however, exists on the other side. Washington could barely put up points or move the ball through the air against Tampa’s 30th ranked pass defense. The Redskins now rank 26th in scoring offense (19.6) and yards per game (337.4).

The Redskins are obviously shorthanded. We’ll see when Trent Williams, Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson return.

The NFL is unforgiving. Other teams are missing integral components as well. The key is adjusting. The Redskins did good work against the Buccaneers. The same likely won’t be enough for two wins over the next three weeks against Houston, at Dallas on Thanksgiving and at Philadelphia.

That’s short-term. If we're talking bigger picture, it’s hard projecting Washington as a true contender under current conditions. Then again, who had them 6-3 after nine games regardless.

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Redskins winning formula is ugly but effective

Redskins winning formula is ugly but effective

Ugly, but effective. 

That might as well be the Redskins motto for the 2018 season. 

Washington won an important game Sunday afternoon, beating the Bucs 16-3. The score, much like the football match, was ugly. 

The Redskins offense generated little yardage and even less touchdowns. The team mostly relied on kicker Dustin Hopkins for points, and arguably more importantly, punter Tress Way for field position. 

Defensively, the Redskins were as effective as financial regulation during the mortgage boom. The team gave up more than 500 yards of offense but also created four turnovers. 

Josh Norman grabbed an impressive interception early in the game that basically set the tone for the afternoon. Tampa had moved the ball into the red zone but then coughed it up. 

And in many ways, it was a minor illustration of the Redskins season as a whole. 

This team is 6-3 and well on their way to an NFC East title. They’re either the NFL’s best bad team or bad good team, but they’re winning games and that’s all that matters. 

The Eagles and the Cowboys are 4-5, two games behind Washington in the division race. Washington’s formula for winning games isn’t pretty and could probably most generously be described as old school, but it still works. 

Beat the bad teams, like they did in Tampa, and the Redskins will be hosting a playoff game in January. It’s that simple. 

Much like their offense, there is nothing exotic or particularly exciting watching this Redskins team. 

Don’t turn it over. Play good defense. Play good special teams. 

It’s simple. And it’s effective. 

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