Josh Norman Is A Top-Tier NFL Cornerback
I’m not like any other cornerback—they all have their things they do, and that’s cool. I respect that. But I’m in another group right now; I’m in another class.-Josh Norman (J_No24)
Josh Norman was asked by Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated what it feels like to be the next great player at the cornerback position, Norman was quoted as saying "I am unique in my own special way. I’m like nobody else, and I want that to show up.” The reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Month was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2012 in the fifth round out of Coastal Carolina.
Norman’s rookie season resulted in him being benched after playing 12 games and he played only seven games in 2013. When there were changes in the defensive lineup, Norman was given another chance and never looked back. Norman’s vibrant personality on and off the field can both help and hurt him, but has not affected his production this year.
Pro Football Focus reports that Josh Norman's Opponent passer rating (OPR) was 53.2% on 379 passing snaps and 58 targets last season. This was fourth in the league. This year, his OPR percentage is first in the league at 23.1. Quarterback's threw towards Lake Norman only 58 times last year and he only allowed 27 catches about 47%. This was better than Richard Sherman, Vontae Davis, and Darelle Revis. He was 10+ percentage points better than Stephen Gilmore and shutdown corner Patrick Peterson.
This season Norman has taken 175 snaps at left corner, 115 at right corner, and occasionally plays in the slot. While it's common wisdom that some cornerbacks are better at playing one side of the field, Norman has been everywhere and still has the best OPR in the NFL. Norman, playing as the number one cornerback has been Lockdown so far in the first four games against opposing teams best wide receivers.
In Week Two against DeAndre Hopkins, Norman allowed two catches for 24 yards on seven targets. When defending Vincent Jackson, he only allowed two catches for 31 yards and actually matched Jackson's catches with his two interceptions, one returned for a Touchdown. He celebrates with his pony dance. He was told this was legal, but was penalized after his Touchdown return against Winston.
A special ability Josh Norman possesses is his constant ability to bait Quarterbacks into throwing his way in coverage and him cheating or reading the route for the interception or deflection. In the third quarter of the Season opener Blake Bortles was intercepted by Norman on a short pass to T.J. Yeldon. Bortles seemed to toss towards Luke Norman multiple times in the second quarter. Norman joked after the game, “It was like bro really don’t read the scouting report.”
Norman is in a Cover 3 package when he picks off this pass, by using eye discipline and his famous baiting skills he was able to easily pick off Bortles reading the play from the snap. He noticed that Yeldon motioned out of the backfield and Norman followed Bortles waiting for him to look to Yeldon on the fly route and then he broke on it. Norman changed his stance once the play developed before his interception to bait Bortles into the interception.
Josh Norman has also shown late-game heroics, most notably at home against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3. This time in a cover Cover 4 package, Norman is hit with a double move by Brandin Cooks, but stays disciplined and recovers to get into a jump-ball situation with Cooks. Norman then made the best interception grab of the season to seal the win for undefeated Carolina. This is not a catch just any player makes, this was an elite catch for a player that will be getting paid some ELITE money.
Ranked as the best Cornerback in the league by Pro Football Focus, Norman is starting to draw comparisons as the "East Coast Richard Sherman," but the numbers don't lie. Josh Norman is the best defensive back in the league right now!