Jackson vs. Norman is must-watch matchup of Redskins camp
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Kirk Cousins unloaded on a throw down the right sideline and watched as receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Josh Norman raced after the ball.
When Jackson got a step to beat Norman and finished off the play with a touchdown catch, Cousins sprinted down the field to celebrate as fans wowed and cheered.
Jackson versus Norman is the must-watch matchup at Washington Redskins training camp, whether it's during 1-on-1 drills or 11-on-11s. The two stars revel in the competition and put on a show they hope will pay dividends by the time the games begin.
''We're here to get better, make each other better,'' Jackson said. ''Both guys are out there doing it, just trying to help each other get better and just strive for greatness. Have a little bit of fun, talking, just kind of communicating, going back and forth a little bit.''
The Redskins have Pierre Garcon with Jackson on offense and DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland with Norman on defense, so there's no shortage of chatter on the practice fields at training camp.
Breeland has impressed with some highlight-reel interceptions and pass breakups, but all eyes are on Jackson and Norman when they are matched up.
Jackson is in the final year of his contract, while Norman is in the first of his $75 million, five-year deal. Jackson has gotten the better of Norman so far, but the All-Pro cornerback who was part of the Carolina Panthers' NFC champion defense considers practice a game in his own head.
''Being able to match up with a guy like that each and every time posted one-on-one is only going to make me better because if he beats me, he beats me,'' Norman said. ''If he beats me on this play, I'm coming back trying to find out how he beat me that first play. So I can come back and look at it like, `Let me beat him now.'''
Even coach Jay Gruden is excited to see the chess match.
''It will be great competition,'' Gruden said. ''When you go out and land a free agent of (Norman's) caliber with the success that he had in Carolina and with the playmaking ability that he has and the leadership qualities that he has - it's only going to help your football team.''
Norman thinks it'll help him to work 1-on-1 against Jackson because it'll help him adjust to receivers in the East. When the games start counting, it'll be Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, so this is prep time.
''Coming from the (NFC) South where we face giants, it's a bit different,'' Norman said. ''Now just being better with that and understanding to use my tools where I can be physical and where I can't be. Knowing that, D-Jax is going to help me.''
It's a work in progress as Jackson has what Norman accurately referred to as ''blazing speed'' and said his elusiveness is like the Flash. Norman doesn't have stars in his eyes, but is still adjusting to facing Jackson.
''I've got to be patient in that and work that patience because he's one of those guys that he'll want to see a defender strike first and wait on him to make a move and then he react off of the defender,'' Norman said.
''I've got to be better at being patient, and once I'm patient and understand what he wants to give me, then I can play to my strengths and use my tools to combat that. But how many guys do we see in the NFL to try to go against like that?''
Jackson can say the same about Norman, whose presence has given him incentive to go hard early in training camp.
It's a mutual admiration society, even if there might be some fireworks along the way because Jackson wants to get the Redskins back to the playoffs and considers Norman a big piece of that puzzle.
''He has the work ethic, the enthusiasm to go out there every time, be the same guy and expect nothing but greatness from himself,'' Jackson said.
''Vice versa on the other end on my side: I feel like every time I get to go out there to get a rep versus him, I'm going to try to play my best game as well, too.
''We're just trying to feed off each other's energy, feed off of each other's playmaking skills and just really push each other to both get better and to use this time to get ready for the season.''
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