Stories have already been written this offseason about the Panthers’ preseason warrior of the defensive backfield. He looked like a certified superstar heading into the season last year after a preseason of making plays.
During the four preseason games in 2013, he racked up some significant stats by deflecting 10 passes, hauling in 4 interceptions, and even returning one for a touchdown while amassing 141 yards on the returns. He showed all the potential to be a stud when the regular season started.
All the potential he had shown meant little in week two against Buffalo.
Norman missed his assignment on the final play of the game and made EJ Manuel a hero for the week. Manuel may one day develop into a great quarterback for Buffalo, and that game will be what gives his fans hope when and if he struggles in the future. It was bad enough that Manual had looked like a superstar all day, but for a mistake to give him the opportunity for a legendary game winning play, was unforgivable.
After playing in every game as a rookie in 2012, and starting 12 of them, Josh Norman was put on the bench for the rest of the season last year after week two. He was in such a dark corner of Coach Ron Rivera‘s doghouse that he wasn’t even active for most of the remaining 14 games of the season. Even under circumstances when the Panthers were thinner at DB because of injury, Norman still didn’t even dress. The writing was on the wall then, not even an injury bug could prompt the coaches to trust him again.
As bad as the missed assignment was, there is no doubt more to the story.
It wasn’t Norman’s first mistake, simply the one that culminated all the others. Despite all of his physical gifts, Norman has to get the mental part of the game under control. Sooner rather than later, the Panthers’ brass hope that time will help accomplish this goal.
Norman played his college ball at Coastal Carolina and it can be difficult for a player from a small school to adjust to the game on the NFL level. He was thrust into a difficult situation as a rookie because the Panthers have not been deep at corner for a long time. When Chris Gamble, our best corner went down for the season in 2012 after only four games, Norman was thrust into the starting line-up. A true trial by fire where he undoubtedly caught the eye of Coach Rivera by making plenty of costly mental errors.
Norman is now entering year three and while it is wise to caution expectations there is still plenty of hope to be had. Josh Norman has the skills to play the position. He has good size (6’0”, 195lbs) and great ballhawking skills. He has played too aggressively in the past but as he matures out of youthful arrogance he can overcome that. It’s all about what he is willing to put into it.
So the question I propose is the title of this article. Is this the year that he “gets it”?
He has the potential to be a great player but he has a lot to prove before he is trusted again. Despite what anybody else says, the Panthers secondary is in great shape this year with or without Norman. Nevertheless I would like to see him climb out of those shadows of the coach’s doghouse and back into the light.
It’s a sweet thing to see the ball stolen from an opponent with a snazzy grab. When a player has potential to make that happen he should be on the field. Norman has nobody to blame but himself for why he hasn’t been on the field, and hopefully he realizes that nobody else can change it. He needs to hit the books hard, train hard, fight back into the good graces of Ron Rivera, and get back on the field to make plays for our defense.
With the powerful front seven the Panthers are sporting this year balls will be hanging in the air for the taking all season. I for one hope Josh Norman is one of the players out there taking advantage of the opportunities available.
What does the rest of Panthers Nation think? Leave us a comment and let us know if you think this could be the year the light comes on for Josh Norman.