The Redskins cornerback has only played against Aaron Rodgers once, but knows how good the "cerebral assassin" is at one particular pass play.
When Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was asked about his first impression of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he came up with another one of his unique descriptors.
"We're facing definitely a cerebral assassin in that guy over there," Norman said. "I know how he works, so looking forward to it. Always got to be on our P's and Q's when you face an elite like that."
Norman has played against Rodgers just once in his career (last season, when the Panthers beat the Packers in Carolina), but knows how dangerous he is as a passer and runner, especially when those two traits combine outside of the pocket.
"Anytime you're facing him you've got to work a little harder," Norman said.
That is particularly true for one throw in Rodgers' arsenal that is almost impossible to defend: the back shoulder throw. It's a play that Rodgers' has somewhat perfected in his 12-year career.
Often targeting his favorite option, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, Rodgers will deliver a strike up the sideline on what looks like a go-route, except that the ball is thrown behind the receiver, who must stop his route and twist his body back to catch a pass, delivered in a place the defender can't reach.
When thrown to perfection, defenders must switch their mindset from prevention to containment.
"It's a quarterback and wide receiver being in sync," Norman said. "For a defensive back, how can you defend the perfect play?"
"You just have to be tight in coverage, and just react," safety Will Blackmon said.
The difficulty for a cornerback is not getting duped into a certain kind of coverage for the entire game based on those quick, back shoulder gains.
"You've got to be in position, leverage as well, but at the same time, shoot, I can't play under the guy the whole game and he'll take off on you," Norman said. "You never know. It's one of those things where you don't know where they're at, so you don't want to be too high on them, and then they beat you back under, you don't want to be too low on them and they beat you over the top. I don't know man, you just have to figure out as the game goes on and make adjustments to it."
Making adjustments is what has come to define this Redskins defense, however, specifically in the second half (note its second half shutout of the Vikings last Sunday). And Rodgers' seems well aware that Norman can influence his determination to throw the football in specific areas.
"He's one of those guys who you have to think about the kind of routes you feel comfortable throwing his direction," Rodgers said this week. "Obviously he's got very good instincts, all the intangibles you could want. He's a ball hawk. He's around the football a lot. He's one of those lockdown guys. There's only a couple in the league like that."