Last year, Josh Norman didn’t appear on NFL Network’s 'Top 100' list.
This year, his peers voted him the 11th best player in football.
“From not being on it, it’s crazy,” Norman said. “It’s a blessing. But there’s still more work to do. There’s 10 other guys in front of me. How do we climb that ladder?”
It's the first time Norman has been selected to the list during his five-year career, and it marks the highest a Redskin has ever been ranked, dating back to the poll’s debut in 2011. Norman is the fourth Washington player to make the cut in 2016, joining teammates Trent Williams (No. 45), Jordan Reed (No. 77) and Kirk Cousins (No. 85)
Norman earned the recognition based on his 2015 season, which, of course, came as a member of the NFC champion Panthers. During his breakout season, Norman emerged as a shutdown corner while recording career highs in passes defended (18), forced fumbles (3), fumble recoveries (2) and interceptions (4)—two of which he returned for touchdowns en route to earning All-Pro honors.
One question that’s been pondered a lot since he signed with the Redskins is whether the 28-year-old will be able to duplicate his success in Washington, where the defense is on the upswing but not quite as talented across the board as the Panthers' unit. On Wednesday, Rich Tandler and I debated the matter here, and Norman addressed the question later on NFL Network.
Asked how much of his success last season was the star-laden Panthers and how much of it was him, Norman said: “For me as a player, you put the best 11 on the field, and in those best 11, you’re going to have guys rise, you’ll have some of them stay the same or they, like, fall off. For me, I feel like I rose within that defense. Those guys that were on the field, most of them rose, too.”
He added: “You can’t do it without the D-line. You can’t do it without any kind of pressure on the quarterback. …Of course, we go hand in hand. If you have a good secondary, you’re going to have a good front. If you don’t have a good front, the secondary got to cover a little while longer. But, if you have good coverage, what is that front going to do?”
On the Top 100 show, Norman said he believes he’s the best corner in the game—an assertion that was backed up by former teammates Thomas Davis and Charles Tillman as well as Colts wide receiver Ty Hilton.
“Grimy, talking trash to you,” Hilton said before describing a play in the teams' Week 7 meeting last season. “I had a go-route on the right side, had him beat. I went to put my hands up, and I just saw these long arms come up there and hit the ball away. I was like, ‘Man, where did he come from?’”
Norman was also praised for his playmaking ability by quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Jameis Winston—both of whom watched Norman take back interceptions for six points in 2015.
“He’s the only guy who’s ever made a play on that play,” said Bortles, noting that Jaguars defenders never stopped the play in practice, either. “He picked it off. Obviously, he was prepared and knew the formation and the concept out of it. He made an unbelievable play, jumped it and ran it back and made sure I knew about it on his way to the end zone.”
Winston added: “He can read your eyes better than anybody else, man. You can’t second-guess yourself when you’re throwing his way. And when he breaks on a ball, see ya.”
Players 1-10 will be revealed next Wednesday.