Redskins head coach Jay Gruden knows he’s gotten productive play from cornerback Josh Norman in his three seasons with the team.
The interceptions haven’t been as plentiful as originally expected, but Gruden understands the nuance of the position, the challenge in being targeted a limited amount of times per game and the hidden benefit that his coverage has one the rest of the defense.
Yes, it’s been “solid starting cornerback” play he’s gotten from Norman.
“Now,” Gruden said this week at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix, “we’re looking for more from Josh and he’s going to give us more because we’re going to demand more, we’re looking for superstar status from Josh.”
The same could be said for new safety Landon Collins, who Gruden mentioned shortly after, expressing that for the money they have indebted to these two defensive backs, big things are expected.
“When you’re making that kind of money, your expectations are pretty high,” Gruden said.
“I think if you look at it from an interception stand point I’d say ‘no,’ there’s probably a level of play that would you expect more to see from Josh,' but given the opportunities that he’s had he’s done a pretty good job,” Gruden added. “To say he’s performed to be the best corner in the National Football League it would probably be a little far-fetched, but I will say this: I’m glad we got him. I think not having Josh Norman, our team would be not quite as competitive as we have with Josh Norman. I think moving forward not having Josh on this roster moving forward is going to help us get to where we want to go.”
In three seasons with the Redskins, Norman has missed just two games, combining for 135 tackles, 37 passes defensed, six interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
While he struggled earlier last season – most notably against the Saints, when the secondary was beaten on multiple occasions for big-play touchdowns – Norman rebounded in a big way against his former team, collecting an interception and forcing a fumble against the Panthers. Gruden acknowledged some of the unit’s shortcomings while offering his own defense for Norman’s shorter statistic line.
“It’s hard to see superstar play from corners,” Gruden said. “Offenses may throw away from him. Patrick Peterson some games might have one tackle and no pass breakups and you say ‘Patrick didn’t even play?,’ but they didn’t throw his way. You know, they go the other way or they work inside, so the opportunities for a corner to really make an impact on the football game are few and far between. We just hope that when those plays present themselves, that [Norman] will make those plays in the future. So it’s really hard to really judge Josh’s play because he doesn’t get a lot of opportunities, but moving forward I think hopefully they will come for him.”
One of the changes this offseason came on the coaching side, as the Redskins brought in former defensive coordinator Ray Horton to lead the defensive backs group. It’s a move that Gruden believes will help Norman, already a teacher, grow as a player.
“Having the experience of Coach [Ray] Horton in different schemes and different leverages, different techniques, I think will help Josh a lot personally,” Gruden said. “As long as Josh is accepting the role, which I know he will be. Josh I think is a guy that I think wants to be coached, will accept it and adjust his game the best way he can to help this football team that’s why I like Josh, he’s a great competitor, willing to work hard.
“People think that he was out there off ‘Dancing With The Stars,’ but Josh is one of our hardest workers, he’s on the field extra and he’s going to keep working and come in in great shape an he’s going to learn with coach Horton and they are going to work well together.”
The Redskins’ re-tooled secondary – with Collins patrolling the field and expected big steps from Fabian Moreau and Greg Stroman – will continue to get better, and Gruden is happy to have Norman and his experience on board.
“People seem to be disappointed in his play, I’m not disappointed at all,” Gruden said. “I think Josh is a good football player and does some great things for us. Like I said, I think having Josh is a heck of a lot better than not having Josh for this football team.”