Washington head coach Jay Gruden caught a lot of flack during and after Monday night's one-sided loss to the Steelers for the decision not to use Josh Norman, their best corner and a guy they gave a $75 million contract to during the offseason, on Antonio Brown. With a game against Dallas this week, the big question was whether or not they'd do the same thing against Dez Bryant.
Gruden plans to stick with his scheme, meaning Bashaud Breeland will be lining up against Bryant, according to Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Breeland isn't a bad corner. He may not be as good as Norman, but he's capable of holding his own. Washington will give him the chance to prove that against Bryant. But what's the rationale for Washington not to use their best corner shadowing the Cowboys' best receiver? The scheme.
"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.' 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."
Norman stuck to the left side of the field exclusively in just three games with the Panthers last year, and he rarely moved into the slot. It's a similar strategy to how Richard Sherman plays in Seattle's defense, leaving their corners on designated sides of the field versus moving them around for matchups.
The issue here isn't necessarily which corner is covering Bryant. As Stephen White explained last week on the podcast and in his closer look at Washington's defense, the real problem Washington had against Antonio Brown last week was their failure to give the corner any help covering him. They had no plan for covering Brown, and they didn't do much to disguise their coverages, making it easy for Ben Roethlisberger to find his favorite target.
Bryant had a quiet week in the Cowboys' loss to the Giants last Sunday. That's expected to change this week. Dak Prescott has promised to "feed Dez," a good offensive strategy that's served the Cowboys well in the past.
We'll see if Washington is ready.