Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman is now the highest paid corner in the history of the NFL, however people are still criticizing his performance in the first two games of the season. In addition, Norman has been under even more criticism because he has not “checked” the opponent’s best wide receiver play in and play out during those first two games.
In Week 1, the Redskins welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers to the nation’s capital in which Norman would likely be against the NFL’s best wide receiver Antonio Brown. Despite the sought after matchup, Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry stuck Norman on the left side of the field for the majority of the game, creating a favorable matchup for Brown. As a result, Brown had 8 receptions and 160 yards and 2 TD’s in the Steelers win in Washington. Contrary to popular belief, this was not Norman’s fault, nor should be get blamed for the loss.
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was the first person to speak negatively towards the Redskins decision to not have Norman mirror Brown. “Going in I thought he was going to follow AB all over the place, but he didn’t, so it is what it is. He made his choice.”
What many people fail to understand is that it was not Norman’s decision to stay on the left side of the defense for the entire game. The Redskins’ defensive coordinator Joe Barry runs a zone coverage scheme that does not include a lot of one-on-one matchups, which makes it extremely difficult to put Norman in a position to mirror his opponents. Barry said, “Having a cornerback follow a specific receiver throughout a game makes it easier for the cornerback to be lined up, but can make proper alignment for the other defensive backs difficult, particular if trying to make that kind of change during a game.” So in theory, Norman would put his team at a disadvantage if he were to mirror the opponents’ best receiver for an entire game.
The other difference is his supporting cast. Norman is a tremendous cornerback and is definitely one of the best in the league. But in Carolina, he had most of his success opposite Charles Tillman, who is one of the best corners in the history of the league. No disrespect to Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland, but he is not on Charles Tillman’s level (yet?) and can easily be picked on by opposing teams who recognize the a mismatch. The Panthers’ front 7 is also one of the best in football and compliments their secondary very well. They are currently the 7th ranked defense in the NFL, even without their star cornerback from a year ago.
The Redskins are currently the 28th ranked defense in the NFL and only two teams have given up more points through the first two weeks. Again, this is not Norman’s fault. 7 of Antonio Brown’s 8 catches in Week 1 were against Bashaud Breeland and when Norman faced Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant one on one in week 2, Bryant was only thrown to four times he did not catch one pass. The blame for Norman’s lack of success should fall on Barry and the rest of the Redskins defensive coaching staff, and if the Redskins have any hopes of returning to the playoffs they need to seriously rethink their defensive strategy to use their $75 million man.
The Redskins and Josh Norman face off against Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants today at 1:00 PM.