The Carolina Panthers have stocked up on their front-seven the past couple years and it looks to continue paying dividends in 2013 and beyond. However, the secondary remains the team’s biggest question mark and stands as perhaps the most unproven unit in the league.
A defensive back core that could trot out a nickel package of Charles Godfrey, Haruki Nakamura, Josh Thomas, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman doesn’t really scare anyone right now, so Carolina needs someone like their talented second-year cornerback in Norman to step up.
“Panthers coach Ron Rivera says both cornerback spots are wide open, but Josh Thomas and Norman spent a lot of time with the first team last week,” Panthers beat reporter Joseph Person noted in The Charlotte Observer. “Norman was benched at the end of his rookie season because of his inconsistent play and freelancing in coverage. Secondary coach Steve Wilks said Norman came back for his second season more disciplined and focused. He has the talent and confidence to be successful if he improves his technique, particularly in zone coverage.
As a fifth rounder out of Coastal Carolina in 2012, it’s easy to believe that Norman could take some extra time to transition in the NFL yet could still become good corner in this league. Norman ranked 94th among qualifying cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus grading as rookie last season, but at 6 feet and about 200 pounds, Norman possesses a nice combo of size and speed that this Carolina secondary unit so direly needs to translate into a bona fide No. 1 corner.