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Josh Norman Faces Early Test as a Redskin

Just when you think all attention in the NFL is about to turn to the draft, one of the best players in football last season is suddenly without a team, and so begins a mad scramble to earn his signature.

Cornerback Josh Norman went from the lockdown leader of Carolina’s vaunted defense, to the hottest free agent in football, to the newest member of the Washington Redskins in a matter of days. Norman’s five-year, $75 million deal comes with $50 million in guaranteed money. If the start of next season’s schedule is any indication, he’ll get to work on earning it right away.

In the first three games to open Washington’s 2016 campaign, the Redskins will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. For a shutdown corner like Norman, that means going face to face with each team’s best receiver. Enter Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham: a trial by fire if ever there was one.

Few defenders in the league could shut down AB last year, and none were more effective than his own backup quarterback, Mike Vick. But seriously, only Richard Sherman could contain Brown to pedestrian numbers last season in a Seattle shootout that saw Pittsburgh’s third wheel Markus Wheaton break out to the tune of 200 yards. Chris Harris Jr., Joe Haden and many others were made to look foolish against the elusive athlete, and on Monday Night Football in D.C., all eyes will be on Norman to avoid doing the same.

Pass that test, and you’re on to Dez Bryant, who typically does his best work against division rivals. Injuries to Bryant, Tony Romo, and just about everyone else on the Dallas offense limited his impact last year, but Dez still managed a respectable 62 yards in a winning effort in Washington, with Matt freakin’ Cassel throwing him the ball. All else being equal, a healthy Cowboys team should win the NFC East next year. Norman might be the only man on Washington’s defense who could have something to say about it.

Were the Giants and Redskins not facing off as early as week three, their clash might’ve been a prime contender for primetime relocation. Norman got under OBJ’s skin mightily in their heated encounter last year. His shutdown technique – Beckham didn’t record his first catch until the third quarter – more than frustrated the talented but temperamental wideout, who resorted to violence, stupidity and a one-game suspension for his troubles. Now they meet in different circumstances, but with the rivalry very much alive. Time to start earning that money, Josh.

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