Josh Norman's aggressiveness and intelligence on the field make him an ideal piece for depth in the 49ers' secondary.
"I’ve got a ton of respect for how talented he is, but I’ve got a ton of respect for how he plays the game," coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday of Norman. "He's a guy who has never shied away from tackling. He has no problem going up there and jamming guys. He's a smart player who’s hard to get the big play on. And just the way he's competed wherever he's been. Started in Carolina to Washington, I was watching him a lot of tape on him at Buffalo last year and I'm pumped to have him here.”
That football IQ also was praised by his new defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, as the 49ers prepare for Sunday's season opener against the Detroit Lions.
"Josh has been working well and we've had him here for a couple days," Ryans said (h/t 49ers Web Zone). "He's been learning. He's been doing a really good job. You can tell (he's a) vet who's been around a for while and knows a lot of ball -- very smart player, instinctive player. He's made plays in this league since he first came into the league, so (I'm) excited to add some veteran depth to our corner position."
Norman spent the 2020 season with the Buffalo Bills, posting a 69.9 coverage grade per Pro Football Focus.
At age 33, Norman isn't what he was when he was an All-Pro cornerback with the Carolina Panthers. But with Emmanuel Moseley missing practice once again on Thursday, Norman could step in and see some snaps Sunday.
He'll have just a few days of practice and learning the playbook, but Norman's intelligence clearly has made an early impression on the coaching staff.
If Moseley can't go and the 49ers are tasked with choosing between Norman and two late-round rookies to play major snaps, that veteran presence and knowledge could be the difference.