The Carolina Panthers travel to Washington to meet the Redskins on Monday night. Get ready to hear a lot about Josh Norman and the mistake the Panthers made in releasing him.
The truth is, the issues the Panthers have faced go far beyond Josh Norman. James Bradberry and Daryl Worley have held their own as rookies in the secondary. Everyone will point to the Julio Jones game, but you have to remember that Bradberry left that game early. You also have to remember that the pass rush was non-existent for the first couple of weeks.
David Gettleman released Norman because he believed in the scheme over the player. He thought it was more important to have a good front seven that could generate pressure than to have an elite corner. That doesn’t explain his decision to enter the season with an aging Charles Johnson and an inconsistent Kony Ealy as the top two pass rushers, nor does it explain his decision to draft another defensive tackle in the first round. But those are different discussions for different days.
Gettleman hit on Bradberry and Worley. Neither player would have been drafted had Norman stayed. Combined, are they better than Norman? That remains to be seen, but they have been the least of the Panthers problems this year.
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The Panthers problems start and end with the offense. Obviously, the offensive line is a major issue and must be addressed in the offseason. But an issue just as big is the relationship between Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin.
Every Panthers fan had high hopes for the offense upon Benjamin’s return. They were the highest scoring offense in the league last year. Add a 6’5’’ receiver who finished with 1,000+ yards in his rookie season and it looked like the offense would be unstoppable. That hasn’t been the case in the slightest.
We’ve seen Kelvin be unstoppable in flashes during this season. He made tough catches and big catches in the first two games. Benjamin can go up for the deep ball and isn’t afraid to go across the middle. He knows how to use his big frame to shield off defenders and snag the ball. We’ve also seen Kelvin be invisible in games this season. I’d talk about those performances, but there was nothing to see.
Josh Norman is going to cover Kelvin Benjamin for large stretches on Monday. Kelvin will have five inches of height and 50 pounds of size. Kelvin should be able to bully the much smaller Norman, just like he should be able to bully just about every corner in the league. But chances are, that won’t happen. Norman doesn’t get bullied.
Kelvin, despite his size and frame, has a ton of trouble beating press coverage. Norman probably knows this better than anyone, and you know he’s going to be physical with him all game. Norman is going to attack Kelvin and we’re going to see what our #1 receiver is made of.
We’re also going to see what our quarterback is made of, because Cam is going to attack Norman. Logic says, stay away from Norman. It doesn’t matter who he is covering, just stay away and take advantage of other match-ups. That won’t happen with Cam. We know the history between the two. The battles in practice, the training camp fight, the mutual respect they have for each other. The only guy more competitive on the field than Josh Norman, is Cam Newton.
And that’s why Newton won’t stay away from his old friend. He’ll want to attack him and see if he can’t get the better of him. It may backfire on Cam. Norman may trot to the endzone, smiling after he out-fights Benjamin for the ball. Given how things have gone for the Panthers this year, it wouldn’t be a shocking outcome.
This game is between the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins. But don’t be fooled. With the Panthers season on the brink, and possibly over by the time kick-off occurs on Monday, this game is about Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin vs. Josh Norman. That’s what you’re going to hear all about on Monday night, and that’s the only thing worth paying attention to.