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DeSean Jackson, Josh Norman Key Matchup Sunday


The Redskins will be tested by one of the league's top defenses on Sunday, but with DeSean Jackson really starting to feel like himself again, he could change the game against Josh Norman.

Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are, in many ways, the face of a potent Carolina Panthers defense. But it's a face behind them that gotten a lot of attention halfway through the 2015 season.

In the Panthers' first four games of the season, cornerback Josh Norman has nabbed four interceptions, two of which have ended in the end zone for his two career touchdowns.

Whether he's a product of the Panthers' talented defense or simply in the middle of a breakout year, it doesn't matter to the Redskins.

They understand that he can change games.

"You can see he's patient in his technique," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. "He's physical in the run game in terms of his man-to-man. He stays square at the line of scrimmage. He's fluid — being able to turn and run with guys — and he's got great ball skills. So, I think he's kind of a combination of all those traits that you're looking for in a corner. He's got some length. You can see why he's getting the notoriety that he is because when you turn on the tape, [No.] 24 definitely jumps off the screen at you."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has never faced Norman before in the NFL, but the two did train together as they worked toward their goals of being drafted.

Cousins, of course, was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft while Norman was selected one round later with the No. 143-overall pick.

"Very physical, good size and he had the mentality of a corner, which is confidence and swagger and an ability to be out there on an island and never question or doubt himself," Cousins said. "I respected him back then and I guess in that sense his success has been no surprise. He'll be a great challenge for me and for our receivers to go against him. We're excited about that because we love going against the best."

The expected matchup for Norman will be speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

While the three-time Pro Bowler has just five catches in the first two games back from a hamstring injury that kept him out for two months, he's starting to show that burst in practices again that almost no cornerback can keep up with.

The hope is that Jackson can parlay that over to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, but he was quick to deflect focus on their particular matchup when asked about it.

"I feel good, I'm ready to go, I'm healthy," Jackson said. "[But] it's not about me, it's the team game. Other guys out on the field, that present other mismatches, so I'm just happy to be out there, just do things I need to do to help my teammates get open just win games."

As for Norman, he admitted this week that's started to not "a bit" that teams aren't targeting him as much as they season has gone on, fearing that he may make an interception or worse a pick-six.

But he understands that if the Redskins look to open up the backend of their defense, the ball will be coming Jackson's way.

"He's a guy that likes to take it over the top and then he breaks his route off," Norman said. "We just have got to know and understand that," Norman said.




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