Training Camp Tour: Norman, Breeland form one of league’s top CB pairings

The PFF training camp tour visited Richmond, Va., for Redskins camp on Sunday, with Washington's secondary standing out.

| 4 months ago
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Training Camp Tour: Norman, Breeland form one of league’s top CB pairings


On Day 12 of the Pro Football Focus training camp tour, the PFF analysis team traveled to Richmond, Va., to take in Redskins camp.

RICHMOND, Va. – Following a short drive from the Greenbrier (Saints camp), the PFF training camp tour rolled into Richmond on Sunday to take in Washington Redskins camp. This was one of the more upbeat practice sessions we have caught, with music blasting out early, and instead of just being background noise, actually providing the beat for guys to get in some dancing with their warm up.

Generally, the team seemed loose and relaxed in this session, and it provided a notable departure from many of the other camps we have viewed.

The camp also featured a few unusual quirks when it came to drills that were being run that differed from most of the camps we have seen.

Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland one of NFL’s better CB duos

The Panthers walked away from Josh Norman unexpectedly this offseason and gave Washington the chance to add a marquee free agent at the cornerback position long after most teams have a chance to improve in a big way. Norman has looked more vulnerable in camp thus far than he did in Carolina, and I think he may take a step back from his amazing shutdown form of a year ago—but even if that is the case, he will still be very good.

On Sunday, Norman was beaten for what should have been a touchdown by WR DeSean Jackson in team drills, but Jackson dropped the ball (though the wideout had plenty of good reps, too). By pairing the former Panther with Bashaud Breeland, the team should have a very good duo of cornerbacks, and interestingly, will elect to deploy them on their preferred side, not complicating matters by asking them to move around and track receivers. Breeland told us after practice that Norman will align at left corner, and Breeland on the right throughout the season.

Asked if there was any real difference in this defense between the No. 1 guy and No. 2 at cornerback, Breeland told us, “There’s really not. He plays one side, and I play one side, but we both do the same thing and have the same responsibilities.”

Breeland only had two interceptions last season and surrendered six touchdowns, but graded well because of all of the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the stat box. He’s a physical corner who plays the run well and delivers hits that force turnovers beyond the interceptions, and coupled with Norman, should help create of the league’s better cornerback pairings, even if Norman can’t replicate the stellar season he produced in Carolina last year.

Kirk Cousins accurate, sharp in camp

This was the first practice session of the tour in which we saw the QBs warming up before the rest of the team got going. It probably doesn’t mean anything, but it’s just interesting that it took 10 stops now to see something you might assume was ubiquitous in today’s NFL.

Another interesting quirk to this practice was that the QBs were involved in ball protection drills and passing directly to each other in some specific drills, rather than through somebody, as often happens to protect their fingers from any potential injury with a bad catch.

Kirk Cousins is obviously the star attraction among the QBs, and for the most part, he was accurate and sharp. He could have ended the day on a high note with a touchdown in red-zone team drills, but under threw the quick out to come up short instead. Colt McCoy also had some impressive passes during the day, including one excellent corner pass to Maurice Harris, who had a fine day himself at WR.

Last season, Cousins recorded PFF’s 16th-highest overall grade among 38 qualifying quarterbacks. Entering the 2016 season, our analysts have ranked Washington’s QB situation as the 17th-best in the league.

Tweaks to the OL could pay dividends

Over the past couple of seasons, the Redskins have been an outside zone-heavy team—even to their detriment, at times. There was no secret in what they were going to run, and when you are predictable, you are automatically making things harder than they need to be. This season, Washington figures to be more diverse from a run-concept point of view, and will work back in some more gap-schemes and power plays, which allows them to put the defense off balance a little bit.

LT Trent Williams, for one, is a huge fan of the changes, telling PFF that he likes “putting the defense on their back foot,” and changing up what they do rather than relying on one concept over and over. Williams and Morgan Moses impressed in Sunday’s session, as did Brandon Scherff at guard. Shawn Lauvao also had a couple of impressive reps in one-on-one drills, but once more, the problem position looked to be center, where Kory Lichtensteiger was abused rep after rep. He was the worst-graded center in football last season on a per-snap basis, and didn’t look any better on this evidence. This figures to be a good offensive line, but they need to find an answer at center.

Other camp notes

– Second-year player Austin Reiter looked like the best center on the roster, and the only one capable of actually holding his own in team drills. He was a seventh-round pick a year ago, and didn’t play a snap during the regular season, spending the year on the practice squad. He had 60 preseason snaps to his name last year and graded well, once again being the only center on the team to do so.

– Anthony Lanier II had an excellent showing on Sunday, especially in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. He looked strong and athletic, and was winning his reps regularly, giving coaches something to think about for a guy that is going to automatically be on the roster bubble as an undrafted rookie.

– Punter Tress Way was booming kicks all day long, hitting huge distances with good hang time and pretty good location that was often forcing the returners to back up to field the kick. He finished last season with a top-10 punting grade at PFF, and has back-to-back fine seasons to his name. He’s somebody that probably deserves a little more recognition, because as Rich Eisen says, “Punters are people too.”

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Redskins have cleared away most of the distractions from the past few seasons and that should help them to move forward. Their next to last home game is a Monday night prime time event against (insert drum roll here) Carolina. Josh Norman couldn’t ask for a better situation to prove to his former team that it was a mistake to let him go and I expect he will rise to the occasion.

    • Skulb

      I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping that’s not the only occasion he rises to this year. The entire team has lots to prove.

  • Adam Banig

    I have a question, do you factor into your analysis injury? I’ve seen mutiple times where Kory Lichtensteiger is graded out by PFF as the worst center in the NFL but

    I don’t ever see anywhere where you mention how great the OL played when he was healthy early in the year. Every Redskins fan knows Kory is not a big and powerful run blocker and most don’t expect him to ever be one. Kory is good on the move, he’s athetic and gets out in front of running backs on runs, tight ends and even wide receivers on screens and helps lead them down the field.

    There aren’t too many centers in the NFL who can start to block a NT or DT and then sprint out to the flat and throw a lead block for a running back or wide receiver on a screen. I think you are overlooking this part of Kory’s game and the fact that in every game last year except for the first two or three he played with a neck and shoulder injury that eventually landed him on IR a month later.

    Kory is not going to win many one on one match ups against defensive lineman in the NFL but it seems to me in your analysis you ignore the things Kory does well and the reason why he struggled both after Lauvao’s injury and then while he dealt with his own neck/shoulder injury for a month before finally going on IR with a designation to return in October.

    Also, the hype for Reitner is a bit odd considering he doesn’t play against starters. Last preseason he went against most players that didn’t make NFL rosters.

    • Joe Doe

      Favre on Gruden’s QB Camp last month said last month that it’s not about just playing hurt, you have to play well while you’re hurt. It’s the NFL, if you’re not hurt, you probably haven’t been playing.

      • Adam Banig

        Well, no one is calling Kory a hall of Famer here and Favre also played most of his career on painkillers.

        Also, there’s a difference between “playing hurt” and “playing injured.”

        Kory had lost the strength in his arm because of the neck/shoulder injury he had. If you don’t have strength in one of your arms it’s nearly impossible to play football, especially if your a lineman.

        • Joe Doe

          Favre quit the painkillers in 1996, so less than a quarter of his career. He played with broken fingers, including a broken thumb on his throwing hand. If you have a broken thumb on your throwing hand, it’s nearly impossible to play football, especially if your [sic] a quarterback. Once again, it’s the NFL, if you’re not hurt, you probably haven’t been playing. It’s impossible to conjecture what might have been if everybody was healthy. We can only evaluate what is there.

          • Adam Banig

            Quit focusing on Favre. Favre is irrelevant to this discussion and he’s a clear aberration.

            Your ignoring the fact Kory played with one arm for 1/2 of the games he played in last year and the fact that the running game averaged 3.5 yards a carry without him for 3 months during the regular season but when he played in the playoffs the running game average per carry jumped by one full yard to 4.7 yards per carry.

          • Adam Banig

            By the way, Redskins came out with their first depth chart today and Austin Reiter was listed as the 4th team center behind Kory L, Spencer Long & Josh LeRibeus.

          • Joe Doe

            The guys at PFF aren’t going to sit around determine who was injured more than the other guy. They produce grades that are released Monday morning for Sunday games. The grading is objective. Injury evaluation is subjective.

            Btw, nice stat lookup on the one playoff game the Redskins fell backwards into in that terrible division. Do you really think your boy’s arm feeling a little better was the impact? Tough to say with that sample size. Some might attribute it to playing against the Packers, who allowed 4.5 ypc on the season. Wait, let me adjust that for injury. Seeing as they had an ILB get injured in the preseason we are going to officially adjust the Packers yard/carry allowed to 1.6 ypc.

          • Adam Banig

            Again, you keep writing things that are NOT relevant to the discussion. You seem to just be making things up … Kinda like PFF with their analysis of not only Kory but also for Austin Reiter as he goes against players that won’t make it onto NFL rosters.

            I am talking about the play of Kory L and the redskins running game from when he was in the line up vs. when he was not in the line up in 2015.

            You want more stats? Let’s look at week 1 & 2 of the regular season when Kory and Lauvao were healthy and the ypc of the running game in 2014 when they both played every game.

            Week 1 vs Miami: 161 yards, 4.6 avg

            Week 2 vs St Louis: 182 yards, 4.9 avg

            2014 Redskins averaged 4.2 ypc and the team rushed for 1691 yards on 401 attempts with 15 rushing TDs and Kory L started all 16 games.

          • Skulb

            You’re pretty good with straw men arguments there. He already pointed out that the run game was good before Lauvao went down for the season and then went from bad to worst in the NFL when Kory had his neck injury later. If Licht has good guards on either side he can do a lot of things well enough that he shouldn’t be this solidly at the bottom of PFF’s ranking.
            Anyone who knows football watching him on tape knows perfectly well that he is great in double teams, shedding defenders and working in space. Clearly PFF are not monitoring those things or they would know too.
            The real weakness on the line, pending Lauvao’s possible return to form in 16, is left guard. If Shawn plays all 16 there as well as he started out in 2015 Kory will have no problems. As an added bonus Kory can snap the ball, which none of the other centers on the Redskins roster are able to do.

            http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/24/josh-leribeus-inconsistent-snaps-redskins/

          • Joe Doe

            You and Adam are looking at my comments one level below where they are at. I’m not familiar with Kory. I am not a Redskins fan nor is my team in the NFC East. I merely have pointed out two things. First, most players in the league are playing hurt by the end of the year, some more severe than others. Your boy Kory may be the most injured player in the league that is still out there on the field, which is commendable if that is the case, but irrelevant to the grade which Adam is so disgusted with. And secondly, PFF does not adjust players’ grades for how injured they are. Such an exercise would obviously be futile.

            Let me come down to the level which you are at so you can understand how it relates to your Kory. Adam pointed out that the run game was good when he was healthy. That’s great. Maybe he has a solid 2016 and grades out where you two would like him to be. Or maybe he doesn’t and maybe it’s because of injury, or maybe it’s not. I do not care where he finishes. I am not right if he finishes near the bottom and I am not wrong if he finishes near the top. The grades are hindsight, what was done on the field, in every snap he took. Again, you cannot ignore 14 poor games (based on Adam’s info) by subjectively assessing how injured he was.

          • Skulb

            Or maybe PFF doesn’t know how to grade players properly, like when they recently ranked Eli Manning as the 24th best QB in the NFL: https://www.profootballfocus.com/pro-pffs-2015-nfl-quarterback-rankings/
            For reference, here are Manning’s stats from last season: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2015/passing.htm

            Does he look like the 24th best QB in the NFL to you? Alrighty then!
            So to get down to your inferior level, you completely missed that PFF have been laughing stocks for their O-line rankings, QB rankings and many other things for many years. So that is why no one who knows anything about football takes their “evaluation” of Kory Lichtensteiger the slightest bit seriously. Clearly though, you don’t know anything about football. Maybe you can get a job at PFF.

          • Tom Miller

            Then they need to learn more about what makes a good center. In the first game of the season against Miami, they crew calling the game did an iso on Lecht to point out how he was the weak link. In slow motion, it showed that Scherff lost his block, Lecht blocked his guy one handed and punched Scherff’s defender in the shoulder, allowing Scherff to regain control of his block. Lecht then regained his own block. Yes he was pushed back 2 or 3 yards into the backfield, but his defender never affected Kirk or the play. I am sure they graded that play a -2 vs the +2 it should have been. Look, Liche is a C+/B- physical presence in the center. But the coaches all say he is one of the smartest centers they have worked with (A+). But worst center in the league??? Clueless!!!!

    • Jenniferehager2

      <<t:i. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::::!!bz665a:….,

    • Tom Miller

      I agree. These guys are clueless. Writers that see these guys week in and week out are not impressed with Reiter. Why are the Redskins spending so much time on getting Long up to speed at center if Reiter is so good?