Today, Josh Norman will be taking on arguably the best receiver in the NFL with his matchup against Odell Beckham Jr.. Norman has been talked about as the best corner in football for almost the entire year, and he has some impressive stats to back it up. He has four interceptions, two of which he has taken back for touchdowns, and he has had great success against the league’s elite, like Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones. Josh Norman, however, is not the shutdown corner that everyone really thinks he is, and here’s why.
To start off, Norman is on the same defense as stars like Luke Kuechly, Star Lotulelei and Thomas Davis. Carolina’s front seven is the best in the NFL, they stop the run game and disrupt the passer almost immediately, making a corner’s job a little easier. I’m not saying this is the reason why he’s so good, but it has helped him a lot when his teammates are in the face of a quarterback. He knows he can take some risks because of this, and that mentality has worked for him a lot, most noticeably in the form of his interceptions.
Another thing I have against Norman is he has yet to face an elite combo. He played great against Bryant, Hopkins and Jones but that also means he had a good game against the following quarterbacks: Matt Cassel who is a career backup, Ryan Mallett who is also a backup quarterback, and Matt Ryan who has been nothing but abysmal since his loss to the Buccaneers. He has faced elite quarterbacks as well, but they were as follows: Aaron Rodgers without Jordy Nelson, Andrew Luck who has played nothing like his old self, and Drew Brees with a receiving cast of no names and veterans on their last legs. I’m sorry Norman, but none of that sounds too impressive.
The biggest reason why Norman is not nearly as good as everyone thinks he is though is that he rarely plays man. The Panthers base defense is a cover 3 press. That means that Norman is only responsible for a deep third of the field. Realistically that means he has to cover 2 routes, a fade and a comeback. This allows him to get up in a receiver’s face and press them knowing that if they do anything under 10 yards or anything to the inside he doesn’t have to worry about them. Because of this, Norman only has to have the ability to recognize two different routes, as opposed to someone like Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson who lock up in man almost all game and are responsible for a man wherever he goes. I have nothing wrong with cover 3 corners, but when they are talked about as the best in the league and tell someone like Dez Bryant, the person with the most touchdown catches in the NFL since 2010, to give their contract back, I get a little annoyed.
To recap, Norman plays with the best front seven in football, led by perennial All Pro Luke Kuechly. He has yet to face an elite duo, such as Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. And, he is almost always in zone coverage meaning he does not truly lock down a single receiver like other top corners are asked to do. Norman is a great cover 3 corner, but he is not in an elite category like the top man coverage corners are in my mind and both him and football fans need to calm down when they mention him in the same sentence as the league’s best.
One Final Note: OBJ will expose Josh Norman today no doubt in my mind