For the second time in the last three games dating back to last season, cornerback Josh Norman will match up with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, this time playing for the Eagles.
The last time cornerback Josh Norman matched up with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, he went into a dark place.
Norman felt disrespected and took exception to Bears quarterback Matt Barkley, who threw to Jeffery five times with Norman covering him, connecting on three passes for 64 yards, including a 37-yarder at the end of the half. He was also frustrated by the lack of attention referees paid to Jeffery pushing off while swallowing their whistles.
The second half was different. Norman grabbed two interceptions – the defense collected five overall – en route to victory, helping to rectify a challenging opening two quarters. Jeffery only caught two more passes in the game, not factoring into the offense's beleaguered attempts to score.
"I don't know what it was. I think it just pissed me off, the situation that happened," Norman said. "But it wasn't towards him, I think it was more so towards the other guys they had on that squad. But they're not there anymore, so he's not there anymore. I think it'd be a little different this go around. There's no animosity, whatsoever. He's a great competitor though."
Indeed, when the Eagles visit FedExField this Sunday, Jeffery, who signed with Philadelphia this offseason, and Norman will be facing off in different circumstances. Jeffery will have quarterback Carson Wentz tossing him the ball, while Norman will operate in a more aggressive Greg Manusky-run defense.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told Washington reporters this week that Jeffery will pay a significant role in the Eagle offense and "hopes to get him some touches this weekend." That will rely on Wentz giving his 6-foot-3, 218 pound receiver a chance to get them.
"Alshon makes a difference in any offense," head coach Jay Gruden. "He's a big guy that can run the entire route tree very similar to what I'm talking about with Josh [Doctson]; Josh hasn't done it yet. But he can go up and get the ball, he can run, and obviously he's very good after the catch. He's one of the star receivers in this league and he'll be a big impact for them."
Those characteristics provide challenges for Norman, who, when matched up one-on-one, can't do much with a ball thrown a good couple of feet above him. Although Jeffery acquired 821 receiving yards, he only managed two touchdowns, both of which came in the red zone, which could likely play a factor on Sunday.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"He's going to run his routes," Norman said. "I know this system's a little different than what he ran up there, but still, he's going to do what he's going to do. His coordinator's going to give him the option to do such. He's going to try and make plays for them. I think that's the biggest thing that got him there. He's going to try to make plays for that offense and carry them. We've got to be mindful of that and know what they want to happen, listen, and be at our best."
Added defensive coordinator Greg Manusky: "He's more of a body position guy, he can go up and get the ball, so we'll see. We know what each player is and what their attributes are, so we'll try to defend them the best we can on Sunday."
With Manusky sending more pressure this year, certainly the entire defense will have its say as to whether Jeffery will be able to stand out on Sunday. Norman knows winning a matchup is secondary to winning the game though.
"I enjoyed the matchup every time we did it, and who knows what may happen on Sunday, but we'll go out there and put our best foot forward and to try to come out here and get a win for our football team," Norman said. "This is the biggest thing, get a win, no matter who you're going up against. It's all just about trying to get a win."