So far this offseason not much has been said about last years 5th round selection Josh Norman. Just to jar your memory a bit, this is the same guy many were thinking could eventually take over the number one CB spot. The problem with that assumption we soon found out was he would be unable to hold on to the #2 CB position.
I enjoy a confident player just as much as the next guy, however, Josh Norman certainly seemed to ruffle some feathers last preseason. He had no problem challenging his own teammate and arguably one of the best receivers in the league, pound for pound, in Steve Smith. While Smith was quick to shrug off Josh’s overzealous and sometimes cocky attitude, you had to wonder if he wasn’t rubbing a few other players the wrong way as well.
His confidence was on full display before he ever even put on a Panthers jersey. Even though he was only the second player from CCU to be invited to participate in the combine, this did not sway him from showing up on the first day of the draft to only eventually head home before round three. He would finally be selected by the Panthers in round 5 which many regarded as a steal in the draft.
Josh’s size and weight make him a very prototypical CB prospect. He showed the ability to make big plays during his time with CCU. I am sure you all remember the famous scrimmage in Panthers practice in which Josh produced 5 maybe 6 interceptions. Many took this as a sign that he could possibly translate that to the regular season. We quickly realized that was not going to be the case.
Trust me when I say, I think Josh can become the player we all hoped he could be. This article is not an attempt to drag him over the coals. I am writing this piece to try and temper many Panthers fans expectations for him this season. Many times last season we would see Josh playing 10-12 yards off the line, allowing the receiver a clean release. This resulted in some big plays down field and left Panther fans scratching their heads as to why? Why was he not on the line jamming the receivers and throwing off their timing? Was there something the defensive coaches were trying to mask? In my humble opinion, I feel there were times when Norman wasn’t able to recognize the plays quickly enough. This left him having to rely strictly on his athleticism and in the NFL that just doesn’t work. I feel the Panthers were a little hasty in thrusting him into a starting role in the first place. He seemed to have needed a little more time to grasp the Panthers defensive concepts and adjust to the speed of the NFL. Looking back I think Josh would have been better off coming in on a handful of downs, testing his ability and getting his feet wet at the same time. The Panthers did his confidence no favors by leaving him in situations he had no idea what was going on play after play. There is no doubt in my mind this kid is going to be great one day, however, it’s just a question of when.
So far this season things have been very quiet on the Josh Norman front. A while back general manager Dave Gettleman made mention of Josh coming back as a “different player”. Since then any time Ron Rivera etc. are asked about the cornerback competition they are quick to label it as “wide open”. With the 2013 mini camps upon us I am sure we haven’t heard the last from Josh Norman. I just hope this time around he lets his play do the talking and most importantly we start to see it translate when it matters, on Sunday’s.