The Philadelphia Eagles finally have a number one wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery. That statement alone is enough to send goosebumps surging through the bodies of fans across the city, but it’s also enough to draw plenty of attention from opposing Defenses. In week one, Alshon Jeffery is set to matchup against one of the strongest corners in the game, Josh Norman.
It won’t be the first time that the duo have lined up against each other and it certainly won’t be the last. However it may be their most important faceoff so far, something that isn’t lost on Doug Pederson. If the Eagles are going to head into Washington with the intention of imposing their will, it’s safe to say they can expect to see a lot of Josh Norman getting up close and personal with their shiny new 6’3, 218 lbs, receiver.
“Well, we know and I know that it’s going to draw some attention defensively.” Doug Pederson told the media on Wednesday. “But yet we can’t just say, ‘Okay, just eliminate that and focus over here.’ We still want to be able to use all of our offense, and use all of our weapons on offense. He’s a big target, dynamic guy, that’s had success when he is faced with challenges. This will be a great test for him with [CB] Josh [Norman], following him.”
Norman’s first season in Washington was certainly an impressive one. With 67 total tackles, 3 picks and 2 forced fumbles, the spotlight fell heavily on the former Carolina Panther. Against the Bears and Alshon Jeffery, it highlighted a potential weakness. Jeffery was targeted ten times in the week 3 defeat to the Redskins, with the duo trading blows throughout the game. Jeffery ended the day with 92 yards on five catches, but Norman’s pair of interceptions were enough to turn the tide. Doug Pederson went back to watch all of the aforementioned targets to see how Jeffery stood his ground. His takeaways only elevate the stature of both players.
“Well, I just wanted to go back and, number one see him against [Redskins CB] Josh Norman. I think it’s important to see how he played, good or bad. How did Josh play him? I think you can learn a lot from that. Then just to watch the type of routes that he was running. There’s good and bad on the film. It’s not all the positives. It’s not a highlight film, by any means. It’s the good and the bad. Alshon won his share. Josh Norman won his share. It’s a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other. It’s great competition. But I just wanted to see how he handled a little pressure in those situations.”
Jeffery’s size immediately puts Norman at a disadvantage if the quarterback can create 50/50 opportunities, but if Norman is going to be shadowing Alshon throughout the game, the Eagles are going to have to get creative. Having a flurry of playmakers and a rebuilt receiving corps will help take the edge off. If Norman’s taking care of Jeffery, it leaves Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and even Zach Ertz with the potential to wreak havoc. Alshon Jeffery may be the number one receiver, but the Eagles Offense is anything but one dimensional. Doug Pederson alluded to this during his press conference, expressing a sense of comfort in the dynamism his Offense brings to the table.
“I think when you game plan each week, you have to identify your play-makers. Because I know if I look at it and I’m a defensive coordinator, who are their play-makers on offense? You say, ‘Okay, here are the three or four guys they’re trying to get the ball to.’ So as you game plan, yeah, there are specific plays. Listen, by no means are we saying, ‘Carson, you have to throw it to him.’ He might be primary, but let’s read the defense, let’s read the coverage, and you might have to go somewhere else. We can always come back to those plays. But that’s what we do when we game plan, and have certain guys in mind on certain plays.”
There’s no doubting that the Eagles finally have a gladiator matchup again. We’ve all seen Odell vs Josh Norman and we’ve all seen what happens when the Eagles met the Legion of Boom. But now the Eagles have a contender. A new Warrior to the table so to speak. Alshon has proven all too much for Josh Norman in the past and even if he can’t win the battle of yardage, his ability to draw attention may prove just enough to allow a big game from one of several playmakers on the Eagles Offense.
Make no mistake, the Redskins are well aware that Alshon Jeffery is coming…and the Eagles are ready what lies ahead. Who wins the first battle? We will find out on Sunday.
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports