Through two games, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has gotten off to a strong start with his new team. Plenty of questions have swirled around defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s use of Norman. But even so, while the rest of the defense has struggled, Norman has won his individual matchups.
Targeted twice while in coverage against Antonio Brown in Week 1, Norman surrendered no catches to the Steelers’ top wideout. Targeted twice while covering Dez Bryant in Week 2, Norman denied the Cowboys’ star as well. For the season, Norman has recorded five pass breakups while surrendering just three catches for 40 yards.
However, the play that most excites Norman thus far had nothing to do with pass coverage. Norman took great pride in the forced fumble he recorded last week. Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott ran around the right end, where Norman met him with a hit and punched the ball loose. Washington recovered at the Cowboys’ 38-yard line.
Norman has no interceptions, but he knows they will eventually come. But he badly wants to make more impact plays like that forced fumble, as well as key stops against the run, because such contributions make him valuable to his team in more than just one area.
“You know what I said coming into this year, man? ‘I want to be the ultimate player,’ ” Norman said, sitting in front of his locker Thursday afternoon. “People ask how many interceptions I’m going to get. Shoot, I don’t know. I don’t care. You get 12 interceptions, okay. I want play-making abilities. I want forced fumbles, I want to break up passes, I want to tip passes to my teammates and help them make plays. I want to do something nobody’s done before.
“I don’t look at myself as just playing cornerback. I want to do it all, coming down like a safety and making a big hit. That’s my M.O. I want to do it all. I think just being in a bubble or a box, just playing corner? What is that? I want to trend-set this position. I’m trying to be more than a cornerback. I want my impact to be on the running game just as much as on the passing game. If I can do that, I can become the ultimate weapon. I’m working towards that. Am I there yet? I have more work to do. But shoot, if I can get to that point, that’s an unstoppable force.”
That’s exactly what the Redskins want, and that’s one of the biggest reasons that team officials decided in the spring to make Norman the highest-paid cornerback in the league, awarding him a $75 million contract.
“People say, ‘You paid him all this money, he’s got to travel.’ ” ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL safety Matt Bowen said of Norman in a recent interview. “No. You didn’t pay him that money to travel. You paid him because he’s a complete football player. You’re paying him because he makes your defense better with his entire skill set. He can cover, he can tackle, he’s physical. He’s a complete player that makes you better, and that is why you paid him all that money.”