Previewing Week 5: Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Redskins
Come Sunday evening, I have a hunch that Ravens fans are going have a new player that they love to hate. That man is Redskins cornerback, Josh Norman. He is obnoxious, chatty, brash. He can talk trash and most importantly has the game to back it all up.
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He gets in the heads of some of the best receivers in the game. If you make one little mistake he’ll make you pay. Josh Norman made Cody Kessler pay last week. Here is a quick look at Josh Norman making his first interception of the season, before we get into the Ravens matchup.
This is Terrell Pryor one-on-one with Norman. Pryor is going to run a 10-yard slant route over the middle of the field. Norman is in his hip pocket. Good old fashioned physical play by both men. I’ve seen less contact called a penalty.
Pryor breaks off his route and has good positioning on Norman. You can see the height advantage too.
Here comes the ball. Kessler puts up high where Pryor can use his longer arms to snatch it out of the air, rather than body catch it. Norman is still right there, but Pryor is in good position.
Problem is, this is Josh Norman. And this is the Cleveland Browns and their 3rd QB of the year already, rookie Cody Kessler. He doesn’t lead Pryor with the throw. It’s a little off the ideal target and that one foot off line is the miniscule mistake that Norman makes you pay for. He’s athletic enough to climb the ladder and grab this bullet pass out of the sky like a wideout. He’s strong enough not to be pushed off so much by Pryor that he can’t recover in time. Norman wins the battle and the Redskins go on to win the game.
Norman would however pick up a 15-yard penalty from the “N.o F.un L.eague”. Inconsistent in their calling of unsportsmanlike conduct. Norman has pulled the “bow and arrow” (pictured at the top) out in games before this one with no repercussions.
We have a brash, tough, trash talker on our side as well in Steve Smith. It will be interesting to see that storyline unfold before our very eyes. Smith loves to remind young guys how old he his when he gets the best of them on the field. Smith will give it Norman. Norman will give it to Smith. Which side will refuse to let emotions spill over into actions that hurt the team?
This could be a key factor in Sundays game. I’ll cover another aspect of Josh Norman in a bit. But I call emotions the key factor for a reason as the two teams enter play with pretty similar make ups in various areas.
Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco are smack dab right in the middle of the league in terms of QBR. Cousins ranks 16th at 61.2, Flacco 17th at 59.9. The teams are separated in rushing yards per game by just 1.3 yards. Along that front, the offensive lines have seen Joe Flacco sacked 8 times and Kirk Cousins 7. But without Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis in the mix last week, Flacco could not find a comfort zone. Something to keep an eye on this week is their practice status’. At the top receiving spots, the Redskins employ deep threat DeSean Jackson along with savvy veteran and possession receiver Pierre Garcon. The Ravens have the same mix in Mike Wallace and Steve Smith. When on their game, Jordan Reed and Dennis Pitta are two great receiving tight ends.
On defense it’s a little different as the Ravens come into Sunday ranked number one in yards per game allowed with 256.0. Washington is ranked 29th at 413.5. However, the Raiders, still dead last in this category at 460 YPG allowed, just left here handing the Ravens their first loss and improving to 3-1 themselves.
While the Redskins might still be looking for their identity on defense, credit them for making strong in game adjustments. In the last two weeks, both of them wins to get back to .500 at 2-2, they have allowed a combined 9 points over the second halves of both games. The Ravens will need to adjust right back at them.
The numbers say the Ravens defense has been stout, But they are far from solid across the board. Shareece Wright for one has been beaten by opposing receivers badly for three straight weeks. It was Corey Coleman, then Allen Robinson, then Michael Crabtree whom Wright has allowed multiple touchdowns to while in coverage against them. At the NFL level, you won’t have an easy week and the Ravens should be looking at other options. Sheldon Price was intriguing through minimal preseason action, and stands 6’2” which is always intriguing. Will Davis is an option as well. Tavon Young has been Johnny-on-the-spot of late. Blocking kicks, jumping on fumbles, but nickel corner seems to be the role for the rookie for now as he works to works to earn more playing time.
Where the Ravens are solid is at the other corner spot manned by Jimmy Smith. He’s one of those guys that has rarely had his name called in broadcasts because he’s not giving the receivers he covers many opportunities. He’s not getting blamed for any poor play. He’s also not making big plays which is where Josh Norman comes back to mind. We showed you the big play he made last week to grab his first INT of the season. Norman is tied for the league lead with 8 passes defensed. Norman will have his name called a ton because of the antics he creates on the field.
Josh Norman has been fined $50,000 so far this year. Stemming from a violent hit against the Giants Sterling Shepard and as a repeat offender. NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating, Dean Blandino, has instructed referees to keep a close eye on Norman. Hence the reason the flag came out immediately last week for the harmless “bow and arrow” gesture.
When Steve Smith and Josh Norman hook up, the chatter will be, lets call it for lack of better terms, “not safe for work”. In what could be a closely contested matchup, a bad penalty at a bad time could be a deciding factor. Just keep it to chatter. Smith was part of offsetting penalties two weeks back when he was shoved over after a play. Mike Wallace committed a blatant taunting penalty last week after scoring on a two-point conversion late in the game. The more level headed team could come ahead in this matchup.
Let Josh Norman run his mouth, but don’t give him a reason to celebrate. Don’t test him. In week 2, Washington hosted Dallas. With 6:04 left to play in the game, the Redskins led 23-20. The Cowboys faced a 3rd and 11 from the Redskins 25-yard line. Not a must convert situation as a field goal from there ties it up, but converting allows you more chances to score a touchdown and take the lead. You would think Dez Bryant would get the call and that’s who the Redskins lined up Josh Norman on.
The Redskins show blitz with a one safety in zone and man coverage on the receivers. Cover 1. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott makes an audible with one-on-one matchups on all his guys and a deep safety, DeAngelo Hall, assisting over the top or up the seam if tight end Jason Witten were to go there. Bryant matched up on Norman will streak down the sideline fading toward the corner. Slot man Cole Beasley will run a 10 yard out with David Bruton giving him soft coverage.
It doesn’t take an expert to see what’s about to happen. Bryant’s route takes Norman up field and away from Beasley. The soft coverage by Bruton was a mistake on his part by not knowing where the sticks were and not anticipating the help over the top. He could have been much more aggressive in his coverage. Beasley begins to break off his route and Bruton is in no position to make any kind of play.
I’ve highlighted the ball in flight. Norman can’t leave Bryant until the ball has left Prescott’s hand. Beasley shows awareness by running his ten-yard route about 11 or 12 yards to get past the marker. Even if he rounded the route off pretty badly instead a crisp 90 degree out. A lesser cornerback might get beat by Bryant in that scenario, in which case Prescott floats an easy touchdown pass his way. But not Josh Norman. Cowboys take Norman out of the play the best they can and gladly take the easy first down. After burning a little more clock they score a touchdown with former Redskins running back Alfred Morris a few plays later to take a lead they would not relinquish.
What this means for the Ravens? Slot receivers should look for the ball often. Joe Flacco and Marc Trestman should look for times like this to push Norman out of the play instead of testing him. Concepts like this are man coverage beaters. But you have to make sure it is man coverage. Beware of zone coverage because that could result in a pick-six if you don’t pick up on it.
Let’s go back to the midway point of this play, but pretend the DBs are playing zone. Norman covers the first 10 yards. Bruton covers from 11 to 20 yards and Hall is the deep help. So if Bruton drops back to cover Bryant while Norman stops where he is, who do you think catches the ball with Beasley cutting his rout short? It’s not Beasley. Possible that there is an opening to find for Bryant before Brouton gets over there. Mind you if this was zone, Brouton is probably in a better position. Try forcing this pass to Beasley against zone and not man coverage, and Norman will have just won player of the game with his game sealing pick-six.
Prediction for this game: A couple of evenly matched teams, but the Ravens are the ones making more mistakes of late. Joe Flacco liked to throw in the direction of Joe Haden quite a bit in their week 2 matchup with the Browns. He didn’t shy away from David Amerson last week so why would Flacco do the smart thing and shy away from Josh Norman? If the Ravens don’t get baited into dumb unsportsmanlike penalties late, it might go a long way.
I tend to think the Redskins are finding their groove while the Ravens are already in a scramble. Releasing Justin Forsett. O-Line is a mess if Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis don’t play. Lack of a pass rush. Shareece Wright getting picked on. Special Teams issues aside form Justin Tucker. Maybe the Ravens get back on track this week. But I’m leaning towards Kirk Cousins doing enough to win while the Ravens mental errors get in the way.
Redskins 24 – Ravens 16
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]