- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ASHBURN – Here’s the thing about getting ready for the Week 1 of the NFL season, according to Josh Norman: “It sucks.”

Why? There’s no film on your opponent. Norman and the Redskins can watch all the Eagles tape from last season, and the preseason, and still not have a good idea of what Doug Pederson’s team will do at FedEx Field on Sunday.

“You have to go back to last year to see what they did and it’s kind of like alright, are they really about to run that? And then in preseason they’re not giving you their good stuff,” Norman said. “It’s real vanilla and basic. So it’s kind of like, well, they’re not going to even run this.”

Case in point: Norman is familiar with receiver Alshon Jeffery, who joined the Eagles in free agency this season. He’s also familiar with the Eagles, just not Jeffery and the Eagles together.

“I think they can do a little bit more vertically,” Norman said. “They have speedy guys. They’re not going to bring them in there just to be old l regular guys running slants and you know, corner routes and hitches. They’re trying to take the top off.”

Norman covered Jeffery in the Redskins game against the Bears last season. Jeffery’s size and strength gave him problems in the first half of that game, when Norman felt disrespected by the number of times quarterback Matt Barkley threw in his direction. In the second half of that game, though, Norman had two picks, tipped a third ball that wound up getting intercepted and shut Jeffery down. After the game, Norman said he went to his “dark place” to do all that.

On Wednesday, Norman said there was no bad blood between him and Jeffery, who he will likely cover at least some of the time on Sunday.

“I think when people pissed me off in the situation that happened but it wasn’t nothing towards him. I think it was more so the guys they had on that squad so they’re not there anymore. He’s not there anymore. I think it will be a little different this go-around. There’s no animosity there, whatsoever,” Norman said. “I enjoy playing against a guy that tests our wits and tests us in the air, vertically, what we like to do. I enjoy the matchup every time we get it.”

Pederson said Wednesday that he figures Norman will shadow Jeffery all over the field. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he wasn’t sure yet if that would be the case the entire game. Gruden said that he’s expecting some competitive plays between Norman and Jeffery, but that the Redskins could switch up their cornerbacks in coverage, depending on where Jeffery’s lined up.

“When you have a great corner like Josh and a great receiver like Alshon, Alshon’s going to make his share of plays and hopefully Josh can make his share or [Bashaud] Breeland if he’s on him or whoever, so we’ll just have to compete,” Gruden said.

The Redskins have won five straight against the Eagles, who would have to upturn some recent history to start the season with a win. One factor that limited Philadelphia’s offense in 2016 was an over-reliance on short passes, with Wentz rarely throwing downfield. Jeffery’s ability to come down with contested catches could change that, and Pederson said that the 27-year-old has worked well in the Eagles’ offense so far.

“He is a big target, still runs well,” Pederson said. “Just really excited, obviously excited back in OTAs and through camp and watching he and Carson [Wentz] work. He is going to have a significant role. He is a big part of our offense, it’s the reason we brought him in.”

The other reason was to get a receiver who could go up against the likes of Norman. There may be no hard feelings from last year’s bout in Chicago, but a divisional bout should offer enough competitive fire to replace that.

“Come Sunday, let’s turn this sucker up, man,” Norman said. “For real.”

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