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Josh Norman not expected to travel with Dez Bryant

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  • By Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo NFL.com
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After a week of national debate regarding the use of one of the NFL's most talked-about cornerbacks, Redskins star Josh Norman will take the field with all eyes on him Sunday. Will he or won't he shadow Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant?

According to several sources, he will not.

Six days after cornerback Bashaud Breeland was burned repeatedly by Steelers playmaker Antonio Brown (eight catches for 126 yards and two scores), a performance that included keeping Brown away from Norman most of the game, the 'Skins are not expected to break from their scheme and create Norman Island.

There are plenty of factors that go into staying true to their defense rather than having Norman travel with Bryant. Among them, as sources explained, they believe Breeland is a very good player, traveling Norman puts the rest of the unit out of sorts, such a move could negatively affect Breeland's confidence, and overreacting after one game featuring the best receiver in the NFL isn't prudent.

When coach Jay Gruden spoke with NFL.com's Mike Garafolo late this week, he offered some insight. Gruden praised both Norman and Breeland and added there are some risks involved in moving players around and telegraphing your defense.

"It's a little bit too early to say, 'OK, let's match him up on the best receiver because Breeland gave up a couple of catches to Antonio Brown for (heaven's) sake,'" Gruden said. "I like where (Norman) is at. If there's a specific time or play or part of the game where we can match up, we can do that. But Breeland was here the last two years, and he had to cover (Bryant) before and he's done pretty well against him."

In fact, making sure Breeland is confident this week will be key.

"You can never doubt yourself and never get down on yourself because this league is unforgiving, man," Gruden said. "There's going to be a new wideout with big eyes and high hopes to come get your ass the following game, so you've got to be ready. And (Breeland) has the right frame of mind. He was a little bit down the first day coming back to practice but a couple of days of sleep, he got himself ready. He'll be good."

Similar to Richard Sherman in Seattle, Norman thrived in Carolina mostly on one side of the field. He did not travel exclusively. But increased expectations came when he shockingly became a free agent, then signed a five-year, $70-million deal with $50 million in guarantees in Washington. It causes some to clamor for him to turn into vintage Darrelle Revis overnight.

But even with Bryant awaiting and Breeland recovering from last week, it doesn't seem like the 'Skins will make a drastic change.

"I don't think it's really time to panic yet," Gruden said. "We have some great receivers coming up and that could be an option later on. After Dez, we still have Odell (Beckham Jr.), we still have A.J. Green. We have some monsters coming up. Jordan Matthews."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet

Follow Mike Garafolo on Twitter @MikeGarafolo

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