Redskins

Redskins

The boxscore simply reads: "(8:34) T.Rawls right end to SEA 41 for no gain (J.Norman)."

Remove the NFL jargon, and the play looked like this: On 3rd down midway through the fourth quarter, Seattle running back Thomas Rawls gets the hand off and is headed for the right edge. He has plenty of space, and only needs one yard for a crucial first down. The only man to beat is Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. 

Most cornerbacks don't do well in this situation, but Norman is not most cornerbacks. He brought down Rawls, forcefully, and his tackle meant another Seahawks punt. 

REALTED: WEEK 9 NFL POWER RANKINGS

"His tackle on third-down-and-one, when he tackled the guy by the arm, not that many corners are going to do that," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, "step up there and make that big of a tackle in that type of situation."

Gruden nailed his explanation of the tackle, and it showed the type of player Norman has become for the Redskins. Signed away from the Carolina Panthers in 2016 for his coverage and ballhawking skills, the 29-year-old former 5th round pick has become an overall top defensive player. 

"Josh is a premier corner in the league, in my opinion. He’s the best. You know, not from his cover standpoint, not just from his coverage, but from his tackling," the coach said. 

In 21 starts with the Redskins, Norman has three interceptions. It's a fine total, but not indicative of his impact on games. Perhaps no player in the NFL is better at punching out the football for fumbles than Norman, and off the field, the cornerback has brought an attitude and toughness to the Redskins defense. 

 

"As an all-around corner, coverage, tackling, leadership, effort, all that stuff, I think he’s up there with the best. It’s great to have him back on the field," Gruden said. "The energy he brings, the passion he brings for the game is contagious."

That passion for football shows.

RELATED: HEIGHT DISADVANTAGE MADE FOR A SCARY HAIL MARY

Reunited with high school teammate D.J. Swearinger, the Redskins defense is playing at a higher level in 2017 than they did in 2016. The talent has been upgraded, as well as the coaching, but it also seems like Norman has settled into life in Washington. Last season, Norman was still dealing with his surprising release from the Carolina Panthers and an ongoing public dispute with Odell Beckham. 

This year, Norman is established with the Redskins, and even his disputes have grown from angry to funny. Where the tone of Beckham vs Norman in 2016 had real animosity, now Norman is making funny commercials with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The rivalry is still quite real, but the tone has shifted. 

Pro Football Focus ranks Norman as the 16th best cornerback in football through eight games. That's not gospel, but it is an informed metric. 

What metrics can't show, however, is the attitude Norman brings to the Washington defense. The "don't take no crap from anybody" mentality (see full video above).

When the Redskins signed Norman, some critics warned he was just a system corner. A player made to look better by a swarming Panthers defense in a scheme that suited his skills. 

Only a fool would make that case now. Norman has proven that. And more. 

"He’s a Pro Bowl-level corner," Gruden said. "These guys are hard to replace."