LONDON (AP) — Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was eager to get on an airplane and head overseas to London.
It wasn’t the sightseeing he was looking forward to. It was the challenge.
Norman, the league’s top-paid corner, will face a test in Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who enters the game between the teams at Wembley Stadium on Sunday with the most catches and second-most receiving yards of any player.
The Redskins have faced a number of top-tier wide receivers already this season, including the Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, but Green is different.
He’s the focal point of the league’s fifth-ranked offense and, at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, arguably the hardest of the bunch to bring down.
“I think he’s a top-three, if not five, wide receiver in the NFL,” Norman said Friday. “He’s at the top of his (game). It’s cool to see talent like that come out here that we get to match up with. It’s always an opportunity to get better, and he is a person you can do that with.”
Whether Norman gets that chance, of course, remains to be seen. He missed most of the second half of the Redskins’ loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday after sustaining a concussion, though he was cleared to participate in the team’s practice at Twyford Ground in Acton and is listed as questionable to play.
Although unlikely, the Redskins could also be without cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who is also listed as questionable on the injury report. He missed two games with a sprained ankle, then returned for the game against the Lions — only to sprain his right ankle.
That could force Washington’s defensive line — particularly its pass rush — to shoulder greater responsibility in containing Green and the rest of the Bengals’ fourth-ranked passing offense.
“That puts a little bit extra pressure on us to get after the quarterback and get it out of his hands a little bit quicker so they don’t have to cover as long,” defensive end Chris Baker said. “But, we’ve got really good corners, and they’ll be ready to go as soon as the game is on.”
Green, who has 50 catches for 775 yards and three touchdowns, has had three games already this season with at least 169 yards. That output was on display Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, when he caught eight passes — including one for 48 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter.
At the same time, the Redskins were struggling to finish off the Lions, who drove 75 yards in the final 1:05 to seize a come-from-behind 20-17 victory with 16 seconds remaining.
Washington’s defensive strategy during that drive was criticized afterward by some players, including Baker and defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, as coordinator Joe Barry sent only three rushers at quarterback Matthew Stafford on the play in which Anquan Boldin had an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Maintaining adequate pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, then, will be paramount on Sunday. He has been sacked 22 times this season, the second-most in the league, and Baker said the Redskins have noticed how other teams have beaten Cincinnati’s protection.
If they can be successful there, and they can contain Green, a seven-hour trip home to Washington and a bye week will be all the more palatable for the Redskins.
“Every time you watch a game, you see him getting sacked a lot, so we just have to do our part in putting him in long-yardage situations and situations where he has to hold the ball,” Baker said. “I know our corners are going to do their job in playing tight coverage, so we have to do our job in getting after the quarterback and getting him down just like everybody else has.”
Notes: RB Matt Jones (knee) will not play on Sunday after sustaining what he said was “a bruise and some cartilage damage” in the second quarter of the loss to the Lions. Jones, who has 99 carries for 460 yards and three touchdowns, did not practice at any point during the week. Without Jones, the Redskins will turn to Chris Thompson, who ran for a career-high 73 yards against the Lions, and rookie Robert Kelley. They also signed Mack Brown off their practice squad and cut safety Josh Evans. … Among the eight other players considered questionable for the game are LT Trent Williams (knee), WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder, hamstring), TE Jordan Reed (concussion), WR Jameson Crowder (groin) and RG Brandon Scherff (shoulder). … The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Williams didn’t get a chance to rest on the flight, but wasn’t worried. “You get one good night of sleep and you’ll be back on schedule,” he said. “I plan on doing that tonight.”
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