When the Redskins made Josh Norman the reported highest-paid cornerback in the league this offseason, they were envisioning exactly the kind of play he's exhibited in the first two games of the season.
While many outside the team have criticized where Norman has been used with respect to opposing teams' top wide receivers, they have had no gripes with how he has played. Neither has Pro Football Focus, which ranks Norman, through two games thus far, as the best cornerback in the league, giving him a 91.6 overall grade, higher than his 87.9 mark last season with the Panthers.
"Norman has been thrown at eight times when acting as the primary coverage defender, allowed three receptions for 40 yards, and has a pair of pass breakups in each game. What's maybe more impressive is his stat line against two of the best receivers in the game."
When Norman faced Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the season opener, he was targeted twice and broke up both passes. Against the Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on Sunday, Norman had the same results, breaking up both passes that were thrown his direction.
He's also done more than just cover. In a tie game with just more than a minute left in the third quarter against the Cowboys, he forced running back Ezekiel Elliott to fumble with a well-timed punch at the ball. The Redskins connected on a field goal on the ensuing drive.
Norman eventually began to shadow Bryant at the start of the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, changing the defensive course of action that had previously kept him on the left side of the field. The switch was "on the fly" as cornerback Bashaud Breeland said, but both adapted easily.
"I'm asked to do, what I'm asked to do," Norman said Sunday. "You know what, if the coaches ask me to something I'll do it to the full extent of my abilities. I'll get the job done and execute flawlessly and that's what I went out there and did. It sucks that we came up a little short. At the end of the day we take solace and understand that God gives us these challenges and see if we can overcome them and be stronger from it. Of course we're gonna get back out there. Start on Tuesday and get to work."
With another opponent boasting an elite wide receiver this week (the Redskins visit the Giants and Odell Beckham), Norman will have another opportunity to show his ability against one of the best.
"That's the drive. That's the passion I have in myself," Norman said. "My ego wreaks. It stinks. On the football field can't be touched by nothing but God. Every time I step on the field I feel like I'm the best out there. If you don't why are you here? It's not a 9 to 5 job where you can go to McDonalds and have it your way. This is an all day, 24 hour job. If you can't step up to it, then you shouldn't be here."