This weekend the Seattle Seahawks will face off against the Carolina Panthers in a marquee Divisional Playoff matchup. The teams match very well with one another, and this game should be quite the battle. Perhaps other than the two teams themselves, the battle everybody will have their eyes on revolves around the cornerback position. Two of the league’s best, Richard Sherman and Josh Norman, will put their talents on display and that begged the question, Which is better? Kevin has written about his dislike for Norman in the past but all of us here at N2K chimed in on this debate. Read our arguments or don’t, but be sure to let us know what you think by voting at the bottom of the page.
To me, the debate between Sherman and Norman isn’t very close. Sherman has been one of the best lockdown corners in football for the last four seasons or so. He’s right there with Darrelle Revis as the top corner in the NFL. The All-Pro is consistently matched up against the best opposing wide receivers in the game, and is rarely burned, if ever. He’s also consistently matched up in man-to-man coverage, something that Josh Norman is not accustomed to. And to me, the ability to lock up a receiver one-on-one instead of using a zone coverage is far more impressive. Sherman can play press or off-man and still be effective. Sherman is the least targeted corner in the NFL, and for good reason. Even the elite quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers stay away from his side of the field because they know how extraordinary his ball skills are. There’s essentially no way to beat Sherman when he’s on his game.
As Kevin mentioned in his article, Norman is rarely exposed to man coverage. I get it’s scheme, but against Odell Beckham Jr., Norman was burned twice by the LSU star wideout in man coverage. One was a dropped touchdown by OBJ, the other was the game tying score with under two minutes left. Norman bit twice on double moves and even missed a tackle on Odell in that game.
Sherman is cocky, but he’s earned his keep in the NFL. Both players talk a lot of smack, which I love, but Sherman has earned the right to talk it. Norman is a new star to the NFL, and once people figure out how to beat him, his stardom will be short lived.
Given the choice between Richard Sherman and Josh Norman, I would have to pick Richard Sherman. I quite frankly also think that it is a no-brainer. Not only do I hate Norman, I think he is vastly overrated. He has played extremely well in cover 3 this year ,but that is all he has done. He is responsible for covering very few routes and when he does have to line up in man, he plays absolutely atrocious. Against the Giants, he manned up against OBJ twice and got exposed badly. He also has only one good year under his belt. Sherman has proven himself for years now and is a mainstay for elite corners. He is a better cover 3 corner than Norman just to start, but he is also great in man coverage and arguably the best presser in the league right now. Sherman is an unquestioned leader of a secondary and team that already has one Super Bowl ring. Norman cannot say the same about himself and he has caused locker room issues in the past, such as his training camp fight with franchise quarterback Cam Newton. Norman does not impress at all, and I think people will finally realize after Sunday’s game that the difference between him and elite corners like Sherman are massive.
If there’s one thing that pisses me off about player comparisons, it’s saying that people are “a product of their system”. Everyone who is successful can somewhat attribute their success to the system they play in. I only mention this because they are the two biggest critiques of both Richard Sherman and Josh Norman. So before I even start, I’m not going to attribute the success of either player to their system.
Norman is definitely a good cornerback who has come into his own this year. He’s due for a significant payday this offseason, whether in Carolina or elsewhere. He’s one of the better defensive backs in the league when it comes to shutting down a zone. He’s athletic and makes big plays on the ball. However, in man coverage, Norman is suspect. Take the Panthers’ matchup with the Giants for example. I can count two clear times that Norman was going against Odell Beckham Jr, a top three receiver in the game, man-on-man. On one instance, OBJ torched Norman only to drop a sure touchdown. On the other, he Moss’d him in the endzone for an easy 6 points. I think that man coverage as a cornerback is as important as, say, accuracy from a quarterback.
Richard Sherman is notorious for four things: his mouth (Crabtree!!!), his struggles against smaller, shiftier receivers, his physical style of play, and my absolute adoration for him. Sure, I’m biased, because #25 is my favorite non-Tom Brady player in the NFL, and because I see him as the best corner across the league. It’s really as simple as this- Sherman plays most of his coverage in man, and he among the least targeted cornerbacks in all of football. He has 26 picks (the most in the league since he entered in 2011, numbers don’t lie) and 84 passes defensed. He definitely isn’t perfect, and he has his deficiencies. But he has more strengths than Norman, and better strengths than Norman. If I have to pick any corner in all of football, never mind between these two, I’m going with #25 of the Seattle Seahawks.
I’m going with Josh Norman, a little to simply disagree with the rest of the writers, but I think that I’ve convinced myself a little bit, and hopefully I will convince you, the readers, as well. Norman and Sherman are both products of their system and there is no denying that, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Norman and Sherman would both find success if they were a part of different defensive schemes, but they’ve blossomed with their current situation. Anti-Sherman fans say that he only can play one-side of the field, while anti-Norman fans say that Norman is a liability against man-to-man coverage. Sure, Norman is much better in a zone defense, but everybody has their strengths and everybody has their weaknesses.
To say that Norman’s man-to-man coverage is “absolutely atrocious” or “suspect” I believe is unwarranted. The main ‘evidence’ used to condemn Norman’s man defense ability is his game against Odell Beckham Jr… Odell Beckham Jr is one of, if not the best receiver in football right now and Josh held him without a catch in the first half. Corners always have difficulty with explosive receivers (Randy Moss torched Darrelle Revis in 2007) and why isn’t anybody looking at OBJ’s stats when he faced off against Richard Sherman? Odell Beckham Jr against the Panthers and mostly Josh Norman had six receptions for 76 yards BUT against the Seahawks and Sherman he had seven receptions for 108 yards. Those numbers speak for themselves, and numbers never lie. I’d also have to disagree with the thought process that people will figure out how to beat him and his fall from stardom is imminent because unless your team casually has an Odell Beckham Jr or equivalent on it’s roster, it’ll be tough to beat #24 Mr. Norman.
I do believe that the Norman vs Sherman debate is a good one but I think that it is a lot closer than people make it out to be. We will see who rises to the occasion this weekend. Let us know what you think by voting below!