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Behind Enemy Lines: What Will Josh Norman's Absence Mean Monday Night?

Posted Oct 22, 2017

Week 7 of the NFL season ends Monday night when the Eagles host the Washington Redskins. These NFC East rivals are quite familiar with each other having played back in Week 1 in a matchup won by the Eagles.

Stephen Czarda, senior writer for Redskins.com, helped preview the season opener and is back to detail what's different about this Washington squad since that first meeting. You can follow his work @SCzardaRedskins.

1. What is the biggest difference about this team since the Week 1 matchup?

Stephen Czarda: Since the Redskins fell to the Eagles in the regular-season opener, Washington has rebounded to win three of their last four games. The one loss during that span was against the Kansas City Chiefs when the Redskins tied the game with less than two minutes left before falling 29-20. For this team, though, one of the biggest differences between last year and this year has been the overall depth of the defense, which has been on display over the last few weeks. This team has lost numerous starters to injuries including cornerback Josh Norman – who will not play again this week with a rib fracture – and Mike linebacker Mason Foster. And Week 1 starting safety Deshazor Everett has been replaced in the lineup by rookie fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson. Now the young unit will once again be tested by the likes of Carson Wentz, LeGarrette Blount, and a talented receiving corps.

2. Who is taking pressure off of quarterback Kirk Cousins out of the backfield?

Stephen Czarda: This one is pretty easy to answer right now and it’s the player that currently leads the Redskins in both receiving and rushing: running back Chris Thompson.

Thompson, of course, scored a touchdown against the Eagles in the opener when he avoided numerous tackle attempts to score from 29 yards out. While Thompson’s workload has purposely been capped, the 5-8, 191-pounder has tallied 18 receptions for 340 yards and 36 carries for 175 yards with four offensive touchdowns so far on the season.

3. Cousins missed some opportunities to connect with his receivers back in Week 1. How has the chemistry developed with Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Josh Doctson?

Stephen Czarda: It is still a work in progress with both wide receivers.

Neither has recorded a 100-yard game so far this season while Doctson has two touchdown receptions and Pryor Sr. has just one. Cousins has been able to use Thompson to his advantage while veteran tight end Vernon Davis doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down any, but if Washington’s going to have long-term success this season, it will need more production out of the top two wide receivers.

Cousins admitted that he’s been off on a few throws to Pryor that should have been touchdowns while Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week that Doctson’s role will expand. We’ll find out Monday if either or both wide receivers can finally come on with a massive performance.

4. What is the impact of Jonathan Allen's season-ending foot injury?

Stephen Czarda: Allen’s injury is a big loss for Washington’s rebuilt defensive line, as the first-round pick has helped turn around a group that struggled to both stop the run and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks last year.

Entering Week 7 action, the Redskins are 12th in total defense after ranking 28th during the 2016 season. Allen has also helped Washington rank eighth against the run. From a unit-specific standpoint, Allen’s presence has also allowed second-year Temple product Matt Ioannidis break out. Ioannidis has 14 more quarterback pressures/hits than any other player for Washington. In Allen’s place in the defensive line rotation will be Anthony Lanier II, a second-year player who has yet to be active this season.

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