In Washington’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defense simply could not handle Antonio Brown. Brown is the best receiver in football, and he showed why on Monday night, hauling in eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown did most of that damage in situations where he was lined up against Bashaud Breeland, not $75 million cornerback Josh Norman. Breeland is Washington’s No. 2. Washington was one of five teams to not use any shadow coverage in 2015, and continued that practice in Week 1.
Norman stayed to the defensive left side of the field on 89 percent of his snaps (he was in the slot for 11 percent) while Breeland played on the right for 92 percent of his snaps (eight percent in the slot). It was a big change from how Norman was used with Carolina in 2015, when he traveled across the field with receivers more than all but a few cornerbacks. He shadowed a wideout for at least half his routes in eight different games.
As a result, Ben Roethlisberger ruthlessly targeted Brown when he was matched up with Breeland (seven catches on eight targets for 113 yards and both scores) and rarely threw his way when he was locking horns with Norman (no catches on two targets). While one might expect such a performance to motivate a change in tactics in Week 2, that apparently will not be the case.
“It’s a little bit too early to say, ‘OK, let’s match him up on the best receiver because Breeland gave up a couple of catches to Antonio Brown for (heaven’s) sake,'” Washington coach Jay Gruden told NFL.com. “I like where (Norman) is at. If there’s a specific time or play or part of the game where we can match up, we can do that. But Breeland was here the last two years, and he had to cover (Bryant) before and he’s done pretty well against him.”
For what it’s worth, the Cowboys split Dez’s snaps relatively evenly between the left, right, and slot during their Week 1 loss to the Giants. It will be interesting to see if they keep him contained mostly to Breeland’s side (or the slot, where Norman rarely traveled last season) in Week 2 in order to get him a better matchup and help him improve on the one-catch, eight-yard performance with which he started the season.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Josh Norman won’t shadow Dez Bryant, will still play the left side