Josh Norman dominated the headlines about the Washington Redskins this week. Questions and concerns surfaced about his fit within the Redskins after struggling against the New Orleans Saints last week, getting benched at halftime, and it being revealed he was benched for wearing headphones and ignoring head coach Jay Gruden. He was called out by former teammate-turned analyst DeAngelo Hall for his loss of technique and being more focused on his celebrity than football. He was also mocked by Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas.
All coming just as his former team, the Carolina Panthers, who drafted him in 2012 were coming to town to face the Redskins at FedEx Field. Laminated by his sully departure in 2016 that led him to signing a five-year, $75 million deal with the Redskins, the timing of the firestorm seemed ironic.
Adversity was not enough to describe what Norman was facing leading up to Sunday.
Fortunately for the veteran corner, he responded playing much like he has prior but with more of an impact. Against the Panthers, Norman intercepted Newton on a floater that was intended for wide receiver Devin Funchess. Norman boxed out Funchess and caught the pass at its high point for a key turnover.
It was Norman’s first interception since Week 16 of the 2016 season. The Redskins failed to capitalize on the turnover, but on the ensuing Carolina possession, Norman was back at it again. This time channeling his inner Charles “Peanut” Tillman, punching the football free from rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore allowing Mason Foster to recover the football for the Redskins third forced turnover. The offense responded with a field goal that extended their lead to 17-0.
Washington went on to win the game 23-17.
Josh Norman is the best damn corner on the field today. He just Peanut punched the hell outta DJ Moore and Mason Foster recovered. Offense back on the field.
He poses like "look at me, I'm Hollywood as hell" after 😂😂
— Craig Hoffman (@CraigHoffman) October 14, 2018
Redemption best describes what Norman should feel after all the chatter of his best days being behind him. The Redskins preached a lack of communication leading to some of the letdown plays that Norman has been involved in. Gruden went as far as sarcastically suggesting defensive coordinator Greg Manusky may need to simplify the scheme.
Whether or not there was any adjustment within the scheme or not, the Redskins defensive backs were more in tune. Norman chased through his zone assignments to give safety Montae Nicholson more time to cover the back-end spots. Even the catch Norman gave up against Funchess over the middle in the second half, Norman chased through the play, forcing Funchess to have to make a spectacular leaping catch over the cornerback.
“It was like I was playing cornerback against everyone,” Norman said following the game per Matthew Paras of the Washington Times.
On Sunday he was playing more like a cornerback than a safety. And it was a delightful scene to see. Norman often played within his assignment, as he had been muzzled from being the risk taker that made him arguably the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL by the 2015 season. Against the Panthers, he guessed right and seemed not confined. Often Newton looked off Norman attacking a more favorable matchup on Quinton Dunbar’s side of the field. And when he had his opportunities he made the Panthers pay for going at him.
On a week that Norman was the subject of the Redskins’ headlines, he stole the headlines Sunday as the Redskins improve to 3-2 on the season landing them back in first place of the NFC East.