PHOENIX — The conversation during Redskins Coach Jay Gruden’s Tuesday media session at the NFL Owner’s Meeting had turned to Josh Norman, the team’s tempestuous cornerback who became the league’s highest-paid cornerback when he signed in 2016. And Gruden was asked whether he thought Washington has gotten superstar play over the past three seasons from a player making superstar money.
“I think from interceptions and all that, I think you can say maybe no,” he replied. “I think there’s probably been a level you would [like to] see to from Josh.”
When Norman signed his five-year $75 million contract with Washington, he was coming off a season in which he had four interceptions for the Carolina Panthers, running two back for touchdowns, and was a key part of a Panthers team that went to the Super Bowl. He has not had the same impact with the Redskins, intercepting six passes and forcing seven fumbles in his three seasons with the team, and there was some question this offseason as to whether the team might consider moving on from his substantial contract.
“Given the opportunities he’s had, I think he’s done a pretty good job,” Gruden continued. “To say he’s performed at being the best cornerback in the National Football League probably would be a little far-fetched, but I will say this: I’m glad we got him. . . . I think moving forward having Josh on the roster will help us get where we want to go.”
Gruden suggested that Norman’s statistics might have been affected by the decisions of some teams to not throw his way. But he also said that he is expecting Norman to raise his play this season, despite the fact that Norman will be 31 and faced suggestions from a few opposing wide receivers that he has slowed a bit.
Part of the reason Gruden believes this, he said, is the addition of new defensive backs coach Ray Horton, the former Cardinals and Titans defensive coordinator who has had success in the past working with cornerbacks. He said that Norman “wants to be coached” and “will adjust his game” if it is best for the team. He added that the incident during last October’s loss at New Orleans when he yanked headphones from Norman’s head in the halftime locker room was “a misunderstanding.”
“But as far as his play for the whole season was concerned, it was solid starting cornerback play. Now we’re looking for more from Josh,” Gruden said. “He’s going to give us more because he’s going to demand more.”
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