Josh Norman would be lying if he said he was not surprised with the Redskins' defensive performance to start the 2019 campaign.
In losses to division foes Philadelphia and Dallas, the Redskins have allowed an average of 31.5 points and 445 yards, both of which are bottom three in the NFL. They're 31st in the league in rushing yards allowed (336) and have given up three receiving touchdowns of more than 50 yards. They're 0-2 for the first time since 2016, and the defense is largely to blame.
"I didn’t think it would’ve came and hit us like this," Norman told reporters Thursday. "We had some tough teams that we faced, and the crazy thing is to give up one of these big plays here or there, they turn into a big thing and they turn into us losing a ball game."
On the back end, these struggles have mostly come as a result of miscommunication and injuries.
Projected starting slot corner Fabian Moreau has not played because of an ankle injury, while Quinton Dunbar, the starter opposite Norman, was sidelined against Dallas because of a knee injury.
These absences thrust seventh-round rookie Jimmy Moreland and veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie into the starting lineup, and so far, not everyone has been on the same page. On two of the three long touchdowns, Norman was beat 1-on-1 without any help over the top.
“Not really a surprise," Moreland said of the unit's early mishaps. "It’s the NFL. Everyone is special. We can say we have a great defense, but we have to go out there and play like that. Other than that, we just have to go out and compete.”
Take a look at photos from Redskins practice on Thursday September 19, 2019 before they take on the Chicago Bears.
The secondary will have a chance to get back on track Monday night against a struggling Chicago passing offense, which ranks 28th in the NFL with 164.0 yards per game. Its quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, has an abysmal total quarterback rating of 28.2. He's been intercepted once and has yet to throw a touchdown. Around him, the Bears weapons do not compare to those of the Cowboys and Eagles.
Plus, there's a chance Moreau, who was limited in practice Thursday but was a full participant Friday, will return for the Monday Night Football showdown. Earlier in the week, head coach Jay Gruden said Moreau was closer to playing against the Cowboys than Dunbar. If Moreau goes in Week 3, Gruden said he'll likely play on the outside while Moreland works in the slot.
"It’s always good to get guys back that normally play in that position," Norman said about the possibility of Moreau returning. "It’s kind of a little bit different when you have new guys back there because communications, stunts and stuff you want to do but you can’t quite do because they’re still learning the system. When you have familiar faces that know the system and know the game it kind of makes it a lot easier.”
While surprised by the defensive showing thus far, Norman does not believe these issues will linger. Take away the long touchdowns, Norman said, and the Redskins would have had a chance to win each of their first two games.
"Those little things are what makes good teams great teams," Norman said. "We haven’t gotten to that point yet, but we’re working there and once we do I think everybody will start to be at ease."
All-Pro safety Landon Collins does not seem too concerned, either. He's been on teams that started 0-2 and then turned into playoff contenders. He also believes in the potential of this defense; it's just taking longer for everyone to mesh.
"Communication, grinding, understanding what we’re doing, being on the same page -- that’s how we do it on defense," Collins said. "We got the guys, we fly around, we got head hunters that can play ball, veteran guys. Just gotta do it now.”