At first glance, Josh Norman's 2017 season in Washington does not appear particularly impressive. Perhaps most glaring from his year-end statistics is the zero in the interception column.
That's right, despite making $20 million, Norman did not register a single interception. That total likely bothered Norman, who grabbed three INTs for the Redskins in 2016 and four in 2015 while playing for the Panthers.
Here's the thing, however: Norman still played very good football in 2017.
One problem with measuring cornerbacks strictly by interceptions is that the turnover stat doesn't indicate how much a defensive back gets targeted. Simply put, good quarterbacks often steer away from attacking good corners, and that's the case with Norman.
Norman dropped into coverage 491 times last season, and QBs threw only 49 attempts in his direction. Among cornerbacks with at least 400 snaps, that was the top mark in the NFL.
Across the NFL, the average cornerback gets targeted every 6.5 coverage snaps. Norman gets targeted every 10 coverage snaps.
Quarterbacks have avoiding throwing passes into Josh Norman's coverage more and more as his career has progressed. pic.twitter.com/J2PqpKqjCq— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 5, 2018
Though the Washington run defense ranked last in the NFL, the pass defense was better. The secondary had some ugly games — the losses to Minnesota and the Los Angeles Chargers were particularly lackluster — but it's hard to assess too much credit or blame to one specific player. And the Redskins secondary had other good players. Kendall Fuller had a breakout season as the nickel cornerback.
Remember, too, Norman played through a painful rib and lung injury last season. Initial reports said Norman could miss as much as a month, though the cornerback only missed two games.
Anybody that's suffered a rib injury knows that it causes significant range of motion issues. And despite the injury, Norman still deflected nine passes and forced two fumbles.
Pro Football Focus rated Norman's 2017 campaign as a +5.2. That's not as high as his +14.7 All Pro 2015 season in Carolina, but the 2017 grade was better than the +1.7 result in 2016.
Statistics never tell the full story, and when it comes to cornerbacks and interceptions, there is plenty more to consider.
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