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Josh Norman Was Benched by Jay Gruden at Halftime after Struggles on Monday Night

josh norman

During the Washington Redskins’ embarrassing 43-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints, a developing story emerged as cornerback Josh Norman did not start the second half and was replaced by seventh-round rookie Greg Stroman. While Redskins faithful chattered about the top corner being on the sidelines as the Redskins were looking to overcome a then-26-13 deficit, there was speculation of his hamstring injury he had been dealing with leading into Monday’s game or a performance-based demotion.

Turns out to be the latter, as head coach Jay Gruden acknowledged Norman was benched for his play.

Norman had a key holding penalty on a third down play on the Saints opening offensive drive that negated a third down stop. The drive continued instead and Drew Brees found Michael Thomas for a 20-yard gain on the very next snap, ultimately leading to a Saints’ touchdown.

On New Orleans’ next offensive drive, Norman was involved on a touchdown pass from Brees to tight end Josh Hill, where Norman appeared to miss an assignment leaving Hill wide open for the score.

Norman was yet again involved on another touchdown for the Saints. This time on the record-breaking touchdown pass from Brees to Tre’Quan Smith. Norman and safety D.J. Swearinger appeared to have their assignments mixed, leaving Smith alone for a 62-yard touchdown pass that gave Brees the all-time passing record. The score extended the Saints’ lead to 26-6 before halftime. It was the second time in two games that Norman and a Redskins safety mixed assignments giving up a big touchdown play.

Norman did not return after halftime and was replaced by Stroman. However, the Virginia Tech product was no better as he was scorched right out of the gate, getting beat by Smith for another TD pass from Brees on New Orleans’ first drive in the second half.

The fact that Norman was benched for a seventh-round rookie is a huge headline. The fact it comes just six days before a visit from Norman’s former team, the Carolina Panthers, is a story within the story. Although, the fiery cornerback was back on the field shortly afterwards.

Gruden stressed that Norman is fine after he had to “cool him down a bit”

Following the game, Norman reacted to the benching, backing his coach’s decision.

“Whatever Jay said, that’s what we’re going to go with…It’s something that we respect; we have to,” per Tarik El-Bashir of the Athletic.

Still, Norman, 30, is in the third year of a five-year, $75 million deal with the Redskins. Interesting enough, the Redskins had an essential out-clause this off-season. However, the Redskins opted to trade Kendall Fuller to Kansas City to land quarterback Alex Smith and let Bashaud Breeland test free agency while keeping Norman, as his 2018 salary was fully guaranteed on March 18.

Following this season, the Redskins could part ways with Norman and save $8.5 million on the cap for the 2019 season and a whopping $12.5 million for 2020 — what would be his final season under contract.

It’s been clear Norman has struggled all season. Once viewed as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Norman has not been the spectacular that Washington was hoping for when he signed with the team in 2016 after the Panthers rescinded their franchise tag on him. He entered Week 5 rated as the 58th-ranked cornerback in league by Pro Football Focus.

It remains to be seen if the demotion goes beyond Monday’s loss, however, if Norman continues to struggle regardless of Gruden’s downplay of the situation, the beginning of the end could be near for Norman with the Redskins.

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