Josh Norman is an elite NFL cornerback

Sam Monson explains what makes the Panthers' Josh Norman our No. 1-graded cornerback through four weeks.

| 1 year ago
JoshNorman

Josh Norman is an elite NFL cornerback


It’s probably time we introduced a new name into the ‘best cornerback in the NFL’ discussion that regularly rages.

You’re probably going to be surprised which one. though: Carolina’s Josh Norman.

Norman is currently our top-graded cornerback through four weeks of the season, with coverage numbers that have been looking eye-popping for a while dating back to last season.

Norman was thrown at only 58 times a year ago, but he allowed just 27 catches (46.6%). That catch rate was bettered only by Vontae Davis among starters. It was better than Richard Sherman, better than Chris Harris Jr., better than Darrelle Revis, better by more than 10 percent than Desmond Trufant, Stephon Gilmore or Patrick Peterson.

He allowed 291 yards all season, and just 74 after the catch. QBs throwing his way in 2014 had a passer rating of 53.2, and between interceptions and passes defensed he broke up 10 passes.

As impressive as those numbers are, he’s improved this season. He has already been targeted 35 times, but has maintained his shutdown levels of completion percentage (42.9 percent). He has allowed 129 yards so far, but at a lower average than a season ago, and already has four interceptions across four games.

Opposing quarterbacks targeting him this season have a passer rating of just 23.1, the best mark in the NFL, edging out Darrelle Revis (23.9).

While the knock on some corners is they don’t track the opposing team’s top target, and instead just stick to one side of the field or other, the Panthers do move Norman around to deal with a particular receiver. This season he has played 175 snaps at left corner, 115 at right corner, and a few more in the slot. Against the Bucs he limited Vincent Jackson to two catches for 31 yards from eight targets, and caught as many balls himself as the big receiver did.

Against Houston in Week 2 he limited DeAndre Hopkins to just two catches for 24 yards on the seven targets that were sent his way, so he has shown he can take away a top receiver when asked to. To top off his fantastic play, he also has the highlight reel plays everybody loves to see.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • ChuckNice

    I guess this means we have to pay him. I’m so proud of this dude but the more he plays like a man out of his mind the more I start thinking he’s playing his way out of what we can afford :( The G-man has gotta find a way to keep this guy around and still leave a little for us to continue to improve the roster!

    • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

      carolina’s cap hell is almost over, lol. norman should be able to come in under their budget

      • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

        Yeah, sure. Paying an average QB nine figures is definitely a prudent cap strategy.

        • Andrew Fleischer

          You are out of your mind if you think Cam Newton is an “average” QB.

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            Oh? You think other QBs would have a hard time matching his 50% completions and 5 YPA when he’s not playing against an awful defense?

          • Rickn3car

            Must be bucs fan. Yep. That’s it

        • ChuckNice

          Yea, I don’t know where this Cam being an average QB remark came from Mike. Take Cam out of the equation this year and we are 1-4 at 2-4 at best. He’s the type that does what he has to do to win (might not require 400 yds passing or 3 passing TD’s every game like Manning or Rogers) could be 150yds passing and 75 yds rushing (last the last game).
          May not be prototypical or pretty but the guy is a one man wrecking crew

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            It’s easy to “wreck” when you have an elite defense. Newton is a poor passer, and his play has been barely average in 75% of the Panthers’ games this year.

          • ChuckNice

            I would agree with you at times concerning his passing, but this year its been the massive amount of drops by the receivers more so then Cam’s passing abilities or lack there of

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            This would be fair if you ignored the fact that Newton’s lack of accuracy directly contributes to his receivers’ drops. They have no idea from play to play whether a ball will arrive behind them, two feet over their heads, in the numbers, or at their shoelaces.

          • ChuckNice

            I don’t know any receiver that knows exactly where a ball is going to hit them. If its in the area and considered “a catchable ball” then that’s why they get paid. Everybody is not Odell Becham. That being said if you’ve seen any of the Panthers games this season you can tell that there have been very catchable drops by all of the receivers (including Olson)

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            Carolina receivers have exactly seven drops this season as charted by Stats, Inc. That’s hardly a staggering mark. Seven teams have as many or more, including Atlanta, Oakland, Philly, StL, Jacksonville, the Giants, and Houston, who has TWICE as many. Sorry, but the quarterback is responsible for putting the ball where his receiver can catch it. Your inability to know where the ball’s going to go when you throw it is a significant negative mark on your resume as a passer. It’s not a coincidence Newton led the NFL in off-target throws last year.

          • Rashaun Singleton

            All those other quarterbacks also have nothing compared to newton in terms of keeping the play alive and getting down field. When you look at Derek Carr he has reliable receivers Cooper and Crabtree. Fitzgerald has Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and a reliable running running who’s having a good season in Chris Ivory. Teddy Bridgewater is benefiting from Adrian Peterson consistently performing and he’s still struggling and lost the game both in week 1, against the 49ers, and turned the ball over in a crucial moment Week 4. Andy Dalton probably has the most reliable offense on your list and he has struggled every season, except starting off 2015-2016. Nick Foles is also ‘benifting’ from arguably a better defense than Carolina’s and the depth/versatility of his offensive weapons are outclass our own. Kirk Cousins beniftis from a power run scheme and offensive weapons in Alfred Morris, and break out player in Matt Jones, and multiple recieving options that have put up solid stats for multiple seasons. Neither of those quarterbacks listed has a better record this season than Cam Newton, aside from being tied with Andy Dalton. He was leading the team in rushing yards just a few weeks ago and is second on the team in rushing yards. He keeps plays alive. He’s also being paid for being the PANTHERS quarterback. He’s not asked to sit in the pocket and throw passes all game. He’s asked to continue the current drive and get points on the board by passing and RUNNING the ball, something all those quarterbacks listed above can’t do as effectively as he does.

          • ChuckNice

            Yep, What he said!

          • ChuckNice

            And also look at what he does with the weapons and offensive line that is given to him. And I’m like you Procton, I haven’t been sold out on Cam and I still have my doubts about his ability to elevate the teams play and take us to the next level, but I look at what he has to work with, and other options for QB available on our team and throughout the league and I have no choice but to be sold because the buying options or few and far between! On that premise alone he’s worth the money!

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            He’s got plenty of weapons, starting with an elite defense that requires far less of him than most any other QB in the league. Newton’s literally one of the worst all time when the defense allows even 21 points to the opponent. Further, the OL complaint is a silly one, given that his worst statistical year (2013) was the year in which he got his best offensive line play. You want a “buying option?” Ryan Fitzpatrick has the Jets at 3-1. Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Kirk Cousins, and Nick Foles have performed as well or better than Newton and could have the Panthers unbeaten against the garbage teams they’ve played against. Brandon WEEDEN has looked much better than Newton as a passer. All are WAY cheaper, and are evident of the caliber of the QB the Panthers could get to take Newton’s spot instead of paying elite money to get mediocre performance. Even Andy Dalton is significantly cheaper/easier to get rid of if he underperforms, and he’s performing at a much higher level than Newton while leading his team to 4-0. Finally, let’s not forget that there’s another QB on the roster (Derek Anderson) who went undefeated in two starts last year, even while the “position-redefining” “entertainer slash icon” went 5-8-1 with the same roster. Newton isn’t egregiously expensive this season, but his cap number only goes up (by a full 50% from this year to next), and it is almost impossible to build a solid NFL roster around an average QB to whom you’re paying top money, particularly one who doesn’t elevate the play of his teammates, as people’s griping about Newton’s “weapons” prove he can’t do.

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            He’s got plenty of weapons, starting with an elite defense that requires far less of him than most any other QB in the league. Newton’s literally one of the worst all time when the defense allows even 21 points to the opponent. Further, the OL complaint is a silly one, given that his worst statistical year (2013) was the year in which he got his best offensive line play. You want a “buying option?” Ryan Fitzpatrick has the Jets at 3-1. Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Kirk Cousins, and Nick Foles have performed as well or better than Newton and could have the Panthers unbeaten against the garbage teams they’ve played against. Brandon WEEDEN has looked much better than Newton as a passer. All are WAY cheaper, and are evident of the caliber of the QB the Panthers could get to take Newton’s spot instead of paying elite money to get mediocre performance. Even Andy Dalton is significantly cheaper/easier to get rid of if he underperforms, and he’s performing at a much higher level than Newton while leading his team to 4-0. Finally, let’s not forget that there’s another QB on the roster (Derek Anderson) who went undefeated in two starts last year, even while the “position-redefining” “entertainer slash icon” went 5-8-1 with the same roster. Newton isn’t egregiously expensive this season, but his cap number only goes up (by a full 50% from this year to next), and it is almost impossible to build a solid NFL roster around an average QB to whom you’re paying top money, particularly one who doesn’t elevate the play of his teammates, as people’s griping about Newton’s “weapons” prove he can’t do.

        • Rickn3car

          Avg…. Dude he is the offense. Get real

    • Raja De La Getto

      I hope so man, we haven’t had a secondary this good since gamble and Lucas

  • ChuckNice

    I guess this means we have to pay him. I’m so proud of this dude but the more he plays like a man out of his mind the more I start thinking he’s playing his way out of what we can afford :( The G-man has gotta find a way to keep this guy around and still leave a little for us to continue to improve the roster!

  • ChuckNice

    That being said if he’s number 1, he’s going to want #1 money (and that’s a lot of bread)! Still happy for the guy, and to think G-man offered 7-8mil a year. 10 Mil that he was asking for looks like a bargain right now!!!!!

    • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

      should offer him the same bargain basement contract chris harris jr signed, and immediately (altho he’d be wise to not accept it)

  • ChuckNice

    That being said if he’s number 1, he’s going to want #1 money (and that’s a lot of bread)! Still happy for the guy, and to think G-man offered 7-8mil a year. 10 Mil that he was asking for looks like a bargain right now!!!!!

  • Carolinainthisbitch

    Where you at bitch made sherman

    • JudoPrince

      Why are you calling out Richard Sherman? Sherman has been graded as an elite level corner for multiple years….and has a ring during that time period. You can’t expect any player to be rated the absolute best at any position every single year. Sherman has already backed up all of his talk with his huge contract, Superbowl Ring, good health and intense play every Sunday. He earned his keep a long time ago, now Norman is staring to earn his. Let it be.

      • Rodney Deese

        Yeah, I wouldn’t call Sherman out!

    • Tysan

      If you let the way a man affect you emotionally because you don’t like the way he carries himself or how he say things then you’re weak bro. With that being said this is a game where emotions run extremely high. I love the way Sherman play. You can’t be an elite player in the NFL if you’re not passionate for the game.

  • Johnathan Pertolick

    Easy to be the best cornerback of the year when the greatest QB you faced was rookie Jameis Winston.

    • JudoPrince

      But Pro Football Focus just doesn’t rate weak pass attempts thrown in a cornerback’s direction. They rate every single play. So even when an average QB isn’t throwing at Norman, he is still earning top coverage grades by sticking to his man.

      • cnoteda1and0nly

        True but the interceptions mentioned in the article used to buffer the author’s point are from weak Qbs.

  • Jack Wambaugh

    How is Patrick Peterson doing?

  • Jack Wambaugh

    How is Patrick Peterson doing?

    • Bob

      Given up like 1 or 2 catches all year, but this site lowkey hates him

      • Jack Wambaugh

        yeah haha, I’m a cards fan and yes he is overrated but this season I’m not quite sure, I think he’s let up around 5 catches for 60 yards? the last two games he hasn’t allowed a single catch. I’m curious to see how well he’s doing

      • Jack Wambaugh

        oh wait look at PFF’s twitter, there’s my answer haha 85 total yards thanks PFF

  • Julio is better

    Wait until Julio embarrasses him twice before you take his pants off.

    • VagusNC

      Last season in two games against Julio Jones he held him to 10 catches for 107 yards on 17 targets. I’d say he performed admirably.

    • Rodney Deese

      How did that go for Julio last year. But, I hear what u saying.

    • Earnest G. Owens

      How did Julio do against him last year?

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    crazy how much he’s being targeted this year despite his performance, obviously shading teams #1 WRs is part of that tho

  • goalie1021

    MARK MY WORDS__HE WILL NOT BE A PANTHER NEXT YEAR or he will play under the franchise tag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As much as I hope and pray he resigns with the Panthers, i just dont see it happening. Knowing that he already turned down an offer before this season started in the neighborhood of 7 million a year, hes likely going to demand a salary in the 10 million + per year range as as much as it pains me to say I dont think Gettleman is going to be willing to pay that much for a CB. Yes Norman deserves to be paid like the top corners in the league right now but it all comes down to what the Panthers are willing to pay, and as cheap as Gettleman is I dont see him paying top dollar for a top corner. Again I hope and pray im wrong but I just dont see it happening!!

    • ChuckNice

      I hope your wrong too brother, but he was willing to make Luke the highest Mike LB in the history of the league, and as much as I am concerned about our cap I forgot that Big Money “Charles Johnson’s” cap number goes do big time next year because we are paying him over 20Mil this year.
      Now just as you stated the true question is will he pay! Big Cat Richardson has been very proactive about not letting our home grown players leave, lets hope he overrides Gettlemans call on this one and not let him let our players leave like he did Steve Smith (who is balling like its 2005!)

      • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

        Gettleman didn’t want to let Smith go; Smitty was hurting Newton’s feelings being around, so he couldn’t stay!

        • ChuckNice

          I think Cam must’ve come to your house and snatched the bread right out of your mouth at your dinner table. Was it your laptop that he stole at Auburn or what did he personally do to you? Because while you have some valid qualms against Cam its starting to seem as though your dislike for him is personal Procton. I’ve read your comments for years at Charlotte Observer and you have been the harshest Cam critic that I have seen.
          I’m not in love with Cam but in his rookie season I became a believer of the possibilities that our team could have with Cam. Like it or not we are hitched to this guy for the next 6 years.
          Nobody is being asked to do what Cam is doing. The closest player to his style of play right now is Russell Wilson. Would I rather have Wilson? Yes, but that’s only a dream!
          Just chill and take the ride bro, I throw stuff at the TV when he overthrows open passes just like you I’m sure.

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            This is such a bizarre assessment: you aren’t enamored with the nine-figure QB who’s basically gone .500 for his career, so it must be personal? No. He’s just not very good, and his absurd salary (which goes up by 50% next year, p.s.) will hinder the team’s ability to build a competitive roster around a guy who clearly doesn’t elevate his teammates in the way that the Bradys, Mannings, Breeses, and Lucks of the world have shown the ability to do.. The “possibilities” of 2011 were a bunch of fantasy stats in garbage time. What is Newton being “asked” to do? The team has only won when the game plan MINIMIZED his effect on the game. Did you see the first two weeks of the season? 50% completions, ~5 YPA, 70 QB rating, and the team won both games because the defense is top-notch and he was asked simply not to screw it up. Expectations (and results) should be higher for a guy getting $20 mil+ a year.

          • ChuckNice

            All I’m saying is it could be worse. We could have Jay Cutler or we could’ve drafted AJ Green (which is who I wanted that draft), and picked up RGIII the following year or picked up Wilson the following year. Or we could have drafted Blane Gabbert (you think your pissed with Cam, you would’ve been livid if we had Gabbert) All hypotheticals! Point being we got who we got. I accepted a long time ago that he will never be Breese, Manning, or Brady (and right now he’s out playing Luck but Luck is still the better QB).
            And even if we did have Brees, look at what he has done to the financial future of that team. Our situation is not that bad. What’s bad is giving somebody like Jake Delhomme 20 mil and just handing out enormous contracts to a group of roll players like Hurney did. As much as Cams contract is, its structured in a way that leaves us with room to grow and improve with out completely killing the cap. I’m more concerned with Normans numbers than I am with Cam’s (whose numbers are already accounted for)

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            We could have also drafted AJ Green and Andy Dalton. That seems to be working out for Cincy. We could have even drafted Marcel Dareus and Dalton (Star and Short weren’t in Carolina yet, and DT was a HUGE need.) Nobody “handed Jake Delhomme 20 mil.” They extended his deal to keep the team together, and it still wasn’t close to as much as “try every third play” Julius Peppers got. Marty Hurney gave this team two NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl. Ya boy Gett ain’t there yet, even though Hurney did draft and develop most of the core players on the Panthers.

          • ChuckNice

            I’ll agree that our core is all Hurney. Outside of Greg Hardy and Josh Norman, he was a first round draft GM only. He could’ve drafted first round and went home or let me and you draft the other six rounds! And that is true for the extension of Jake but I would’ve cut him after that disastrous playoff he had and died with Matt Moore (or was it David Carr) that year and saved face!

          • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

            Ryan Kalil-2nd round
            Charles Johnson-3rd
            Brandon LaFell-3rd
            Charles Godfrey-3rd
            Frank Alexander-4th
            Brad Nortman-5th
            Dante Rosario-5th
            Gary Barnidge-5th
            Captain Munnerlyn-7th
            Plenty of other guys have stuck in the league, even if not in Charlotte: Robert McClain, Terrell McClain, RJ Stanford, Sione Fua, Sherrod Martin, Tony Fiammetta, Dan Connor, Nick Hayden, Geoff Schwartz, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Tim Shaw. That’s a silly criticism.

  • Rickn3car

    Cannot wait to pay him

  • RVM3

    An example of why everyone who plays FFB needs to include a meaningful number of IDP roster spots. Those of us in IDP had a 6-months window on how great Norman is.