There was a time when Josh Norman was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. In 2014 and 2015, Norman was practically unbeatable. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks were just 76 of 154 (49.4 percent) for 748 yards (4.9 per attempt), three touchdowns, and six interceptions. That's "good" for a hilariously low 53.7 passer rating.
Norman was with the Carolina Panthers during those two seasons. His defensive coordinator was a guy by the name of Sean McDermott. Fast forward to 2020. Norman spent the past four years playing for Washington, with a defensive coordinator that was not named Sean McDermott. He was quite good during his first season in Washington, allowing a passer rating of only 79.3; but in each of the past three years, opposing quarterbacks posted a rating in excess of 114 on throws in Norman's direction as he allowed 19 scores and recorded only four interceptions.
This offseason, Norman signed with the Buffalo Bills, a team whose head coach is ... Sean McDermott. And in teammate Tre'Davious White, Norman sees a cornerback whose skill set, production, and mindset remind him of a younger version of himself.
"He's doing so many things," Norman said of White, per the team's official website. "I'm just looking at him and just being amazed too because I'm seeing myself in him a little bit when I was coming out early on. Just seeing how he's really explosive and how he's taking every rep as if this was his last rep."
In three NFL seasons, White has allowed a hilariously low 61.1 passer rating on throws in his direction, with his worst mark in any given year being the 75.6 rating he allowed during his sophomore campaign. Opposing quarterbacks have managed only five touchdowns against White, while being intercepted 12 times. He's one of the small handful of best cornerbacks in the entire league. And Norman thinks White's presence will help raise his own game, by a bit of osmosis and competition within the ranks.
"It's only going to make us so much better as a unit because if one person does something, it's going to turn the other way even more," Norman explained. "So that competition there is going to be essential to us bringing over into those late games, late times where somebody's going to need a play. You look at one another and say, 'It's going to be you or it's going to be me.' And I think that time now, why that grind is going hard, is what is going to pay off in the long run."
If Buffalo can get Normal back to starting-caliber play, they'll have one of the league's best cornerback duos. Their defense was already one of the best in the NFL, but it could get even better if Norman has a resurgence under his old coach, for whom he played the best football of his career.