The competition that DeSean Jackson faces lining up with cornerback Josh Norman each day at training camp will only increase as the season progresses.
Only more likely to intensify in the coming days and weeks at training camp, the anticipated 1-on-1 matchup between wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Josh Norman made its debut on Thursday.
The fanfare that accompanied this pairing set an unreachable expectation for Day 1, but they both showed flashes of the competitive relationship that they plan to extend into the season.
"It was just work. We're here to get better, make each other better," Jackson said. "That's what both guys are out there doing, trying to get each other better and strive for greatness. Had a little fun talking, communicating, going back forth a little bit."
Early on in practice, Jackson got the best of Norman on a comeback route down the right sideline. Norman pressed him off the line of scrimmage and backed off as Jackson turned on his speed, shortly stopping and pivoting inside to catch a Kirk Cousins pass, leaving Norman a good five yards behind him.
Norman had the last laugh, however, to finish out practice when he stuck to Jackson on a slant route inside. Cousins' pass hit Jackson's hands but Norman was quick to disrupt any kind of transfer and knocked the ball down for an incompletion, which got both the offense and defense to groan and cheer in equal measure.
"He's elite, his speed is elite, he's like flash out there," Norman said of Jackson. "His elusiveness is off the charts. Being able to matchup with a guy like that each and every time in those 1-on-1's, it's only going to make you better because if he beats me, he beats me. I'm going to try to figure that thing out until it draws in my head, because for me it's like finding that edge, finding that way to where I win…that's just that competition that drives us both to be elite at our level and what we do."
Jackson will use the newly-signed cornerback to his advantage this preseason (just as Norman will use him), knowing he has an elite defender that will force him to perform at a higher level each day.
A few practices during the first week are hardly an indication of how this matchup will progress, but after missing most of last year with a hamstring injury, it's already clear Jackson is already motivated to make a bigger impression entering his contract season.
"You got to take advantage of every opportunity you get," Jackson said. "All eyes are on you, that's regardless of your last year or first year. Just keeping the same mentality, stay healthy, do everything you can do to take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself."
Each year, of course, brings a new team and dynamic, and as Jackson and the Redskins try to repeat as NFC East division champions, they carry with them the disappointment of their early exit from the playoffs.
It's just another challenge Jackson is embracing.
"We got to the playoffs and lost the first game so no one's really happy about that, so we have a lot to build off of, we feel we have a lot to prove still," Jackson said. "A lot of people really don't believe in us, but we don't really care about that. We believe in ourselves, we are the ones putting in the work, we are the ones that are here, so we are on the grind. That's all we worry about."