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.