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Need to Know: Redskins’ Norman should live up to expectations this year

Jul 5, 2016, 5:03 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 5, 23 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.


—The Redskins last played a game 177 days ago. It will be 69 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 10; Preseason opener @ Falcons 37; Final roster cut 60

The Redskins week that was

—The Redskins threw 30 touchdown passes last year (Kirk Cousins 29, Colt McCoy 1). That was the most they have had in a season since 1991. But they also gave up 30 TD passes, making three of the last four seasons where they have allowed 30 or more touchdowns through the air. If you have to put on your best offensive performance in 25 years just to break even with what the other side is doing, something has to change. That’s why they wrote out the big check for Josh Norman.

—On Facebook, Keith Murphy asked me if I thought that Norman would live up to expectations. I have to say that I’m reasonably confident about him living up to the deal for the first two or three years, at ages 28-30. He’s healthy, has a lot of tread left on the tires (he had only 22 starts in his first three NFL seasons), and, at least this year, he’s highly motivated to show the Panthers that they made a huge mistake. Later on in the contract, however, I’m a bit more dubious about him living up to the cap hits in the last two years, which are slated to be $14.5 million and $15.5 million. I don’t necessarily expect him to fall off a cliff but it will be hard for him to maintain a level of performance that justifies those salaries. But let’s get through the first couple of years of the deal before making any grand pronouncements.

—Let’s take one from Twitter.

John is one of the more optimistic Redskins fans on my Twitter feed and I have to say that I don’t think that any Redskins will get such high honors this year. I don’t think that the team is there yet. But in the spirit of fun and taking them in order least likely to most, I don’t think Doctson will play enough to early rookie of the year. A pure corner hasn’t won DPOY since Mel Blount did in 1975 and I don’t see Norman making enough of an impact to break a 40-year skid. If the Redskins win 12-14 games both Cousins and Gruden would have a good shot at winning MVP and COY honors but I don’t think they’re ready to make that leap yet. If they can put it together I’d give Gruden a better shot at the individual honor because there is a lot of competition for the MVP award. A 12-4 mark would almost automatically make Gruden a very strong COY candidate.

In case you missed it 

  1. redskins12thman - Jul 5, 2016 at 5:22 AM

    You highlight how really bad are quarterback pressure / secondary has been recently. On paper, CBs and OLBs look decent this year; need big contributions from d-line and safeties this season too.

    I find Gruden very refreshing and while I mainly root for the Redskins team, I hope Gruden personally does well too. COY award would be great because it would be a sign that the team is doing well tool. For Gruden to be considered for this award, the Redskins will have to really do well the first seven games of the season because the “next seven” (games 8-14) is a really tough part of the schedule.

    • Rich Tandler - Jul 5, 2016 at 9:22 AM

      I would say that Gruden/Redskins need to do well in the “tough part” of schedule (air quotes because we don’t know who will be playing well/injured then) as well in the “easy” part (air quotes for same reason) if anyone is going to win any big individual honors.

  2. garg8050 - Jul 5, 2016 at 6:06 AM

    Norman should be a big upgrade from Culliver/Blackmon. Our CBs look strong and the ‘Skins have some depth at the position. I’m still concerned about our safeties, more so in pass coverage then in run support. I hope our safeties do a better job protecting the deep middle this year; last year was not good. They were often caught out of position as WRs ran right past them.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jul 5, 2016 at 7:48 AM

      That’s a role that D. Hall, with some games at FS under his belt, should be able to help us with.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 5, 2016 at 1:28 PM

      I know Culliver was a bust for us. But don’t forget that he’s been a good corner in this league for years. Until last season I think most would say Culliver was better than Norman; perhaps significantly better. So this time last year a lot of us were very optimistic about the impact he could have on the team. I personally felt him and Breeland would be the duo that finally brought this secondary out of the gutter. But a suspension and injuries happened. The reality is we never really saw Culliver’s potential with this team. We should keep that in mind before we get too far ahead of ourselves with any player.

      I’m as excited for and optimistic about Norman as any fan, but you never know what’s going to happen. Things could happen that are out of his control. Norman’s 2015 season was significantly better than anything Culliver had, and Culliver had an injury history, but Culliver has had the better overall career. You never know.

      • RuddyJamesDIO - Jul 5, 2016 at 3:28 PM

        Was Culliver an All Pro or Pro Bowl player?

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 5, 2016 at 4:00 PM

          Do you always ask questions you know the answer to?

          I specifically said Norman’s 2015 season was SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER than any Culliver ever had. That kind of includes pro bowls and all pro nominations.

          But I think you missed the point. I’m not diminishing Josh Norman or saying he’s going to end up like Culliver. I very much like the signing. My point was: this time last year Culliver was the best CB prospect we had in a while. Many of us were excited but it was derailed by things besides his playing ability. Fans would have a very different perspective of Culliver if he stayed healthy and wasn’t suspended.

          So, there’s a chance something happens to Norman that’s completely out of his control. A torn ACL doesn’t care if he was an all pro. Or something else. There’s no guarantee he works out. So maybe relax and see what happens before you beat your chest too hard.

          A side not that I think you missed: if you remove one year from Norman’s resume, Culliver has had the better career. Two NFC Championships and played in a Super Bowl, but also he was just a better individual player. Maybe you don’t pay attention to other team’s players unless they’re relevant to fantsy football, I dont know. But Culliver was good in San Fran. We had reason to be optimistic about him, just like we do Norman, but it didn’t work out.

  3. skinsgame - Jul 5, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    I don’t think I recall seeing any other writer saying anything positive about the Norman signing before. Everything I’ve read points toward him being “overrated” or a “system guy” and “not a shutdown” etc. Looking forward to Norman being in the Marion and Yellow this year and proving the doubters wrong. Players like him, given the right chemistry, can transform teams with their personality and play.

    • skinsgame - Jul 5, 2016 at 8:00 AM

      marion = maroon

      • celeoinc - Jul 5, 2016 at 9:17 AM

        That’s because writers hate the Redskins and Snyder. Had he gone to the Giants the reaction would have been totally the contrary. See how the media reacted to the overrated players the Giants signed.

      • wvredskins - Jul 5, 2016 at 12:34 PM

        Maroon = Burgundy

      • tim - Jul 6, 2016 at 11:58 PM

        Yellow = Gold

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 5, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      Everybody has to have a hot take man. That’s all that is. The size of Norman’s contract was shocking to many. It’s safer to predict he doesn’t live up to the contract because it was based on 2015 numbers and even the best players have a hard time putting together back to back seasons like that.

      Also, which writers are you talking about? Philly, Carolina, or Dallas beat writers? Many of them have to play to their fan base and explain why Norman to Washington is nothing to worry about. Many are biased toward the organization they cover and are more concerned with clicks than integrity. Not all (Rich does a good job staying neutral), but many.

      I think it was Albert Breer, or somebody like him, had a tweet right after the signing. It said something like, “The deal Washington gave Norman actually made me doubt Dave Gettleman as a GM. That’s how much I respect Scot McCloughan.” So see, not all bad.

  4. sidepull - Jul 5, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    Norman cashed in. Norman gets a lot of press. Norman has a lot to say. Norman had a very nice year in 2015 highlighted by his game against OBJ where he displayed his grit and competitive nature. Given all of that, I hope he really brings it to the Redskins D. Still, I think sitting there watching all of this happen before his eyes is Breeland who is going to show he is just as good, if not better than Norman. If they stay healthy, it is going to be fun to watch.

    I would love to see Jarrett in the mix on this D because we was a really nice looking rookie. Too bad about that injury. That was real blow to this D’s depth and swagger.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 5, 2016 at 1:48 PM

      You know, technically Norman didn’t have a good game against OBJ. It was all over the news for the fight but lost in it was that Norman didn’t shut him down. This article explains it better than I could here.

      I know what you’re saying about the grit and competitiveness though. We need as many guys like that on the team as possible.

      Everybody loves Breelan man. We all know his potential. But reality is that he’s never had a season like Norman’s last year. So Norman is the hot hand right now. Maybe Breeland outperforms him next year, or has a better career. But for now, Norman is an all pro and Breeland is an up and comer.

      I also couldn’t agree more about Jarrett. He was such a bright spot on that D last year.

  5. smotion55 - Jul 5, 2016 at 9:53 AM

    Being in the 2nd year of calm and no real drama at the QB position this team will improve and as Rich said they are not there yet. One more draft and they should be knocking at the door of really good. Norman and Breeland, with Dunbar and Fuller this CB group should be as good as any in the league.. Cousins a little better, and 3rd year with coach spells stability but not great .No way of telling on Doctson even getting on the field this year much let alone doing much. Best hands in the draft but that does not translate to catches in this league.

  6. bangkokben - Jul 5, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    Will Norman live up to expectations?

    Probably, but it depends on whose expectations. All the expectations of the fanbase regarding the team’s success will ride mostly on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins. He’s the QB and he’s getting a pay increase 30 fold from last season. However, the truth is that in order for the team to succeed, the offense needs to stay the course while the defense needs to dramatically improve. The Redskins defense gave up 30 TD passes last season (tied for 22nd). Seattle’s defense gave up just 14 last season. The league median was 25. Carolina gave up 21 (tied for 7th).

    Right or wrong, the fans will expect that Norman to not give up a TD through the air. It’s the nature of the contract. Unrealistic expectations will be hoisted by many Redskin fans on both Norman and Cousins. So what are realistic expectations for Norman? Is it all about wins and losses? Is it about team defensive stats? Is it just individual stats? Or does it just have to pass someone’s undefined eye test?

    In Norman’s first season starting all 16 games (last year); he forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles, and intercepted four passes — returning two for touchdowns. Most defensive players that boast those numbers have a tendency to force the ball on to the opposite side of the field.

    Therefore, my expectations are that Norman would get four turnovers — one for a TD — but that the team would improve to at least 30 total takeaways from 26. Additionally, the defense would limit TD passes to 24 or less for the season. Finally, yards per attempt should improve from 7.8 to close to 7.0. I realize that many of these stats are dependent on other players but it is clear that the organization felt that Norman makes the unit better and therefore those around him better.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 5, 2016 at 2:06 PM

      One thing that’s difficult about evaluating Corners is that their position doesn’t lend itself to stat evaluation. The best possible scenario for Norman and Washington next year would be zero interceptions because every QB refuses to throw his way. Taking away half of the field would be a fantastic stat.

      I think it will be almost impossible for Norman to live up to many fan’s expectations. People see the season he had last year, and the pay increase, and expect him to get better. I think that’s completely unrealistic. But I know there’s some other rational fans out there who just want him to play well and help this team win.

      To me, it’s all about wins and loses. Also, when we lose, for the team to be competitive. At this point I really just want respectability. Norman will help with that by playing well. If QBs are forced to throw to their #2 receiver covered by Breeland all the time then that’s fantastic for us. If our strong safety and ILBs can play closer to the line (or if we can stack 8 in the box) because our secondary is locked down, then that’s going to help vs the run too. Norman could have an amazing ripple effect on this defense if he plays even remotely close to last year. But the guys around him have to step up too. Tampa didn’t have a good D when they got Revis, but they also used their players like idiots. Barry needs to be smart and gameplan around our strengths. If that happens then there should be a marked improvement for this D. That’s what I’m hoping for/expect.

      Your specific numbers seem pretty reasonable too though. You know I feel turnovers are slightly more opportunistic than we want to admit so I don’t feel comfortable putting a number there. But even Sherm gets a few turnovers every year because QBs get cocky and test him. So 4 doesn’t seems unreasonable.

      • bangkokben - Jul 5, 2016 at 6:10 PM

        Turnovers are about opportunity but not just individual opportunity but those around you. Here are the Carolina Panthers in the top twenty in interceptions last year:

        7 Kurt Coleman (tied for 3rd)
        4 Thomas Davis (tied for 13th)
        4 Luke Kuechly
        4 Josh Norman

        Was it more the scheme or the outside coverage by Norman?

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 7, 2016 at 3:00 AM

          I would imagine it had a lot to do with Norman’s coverage. After a while it just seemed foolish to throw in his direction. Which also made the offenses more predictable.

          But I can’t be certain. I watched a few Panthers game but I didn’t watch them all. And I didn’t pay nearly as close attention as I do with our team.

        • bangkokben - Jul 7, 2016 at 10:56 AM

          i don’t know either but looking at Thomas Davis and Kurt Coleman you’d have to figure that Norman had something to do with their numbers. Davis was in his 10th season — all with Carolina — and he never intercepted more than two in a season. Coleman, in his 6th season — his first with Carolina and his first as a starter since 2012 — suddenly intercepts seven in the season and another two in the playoffs shattering his previous best.

          Hopefully, Norman is the primary cause for their success and players like DeAngelo Hall and Mason Foster can capitalize. Archives

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