I know it’s way too early. But hey, the Carolina Panthers are on a bye week, so there is all sorts of time to speculate.
So here’s an interesting question: Could Carolina cornerback Josh Norman become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year?
The answer is yes, but I think he would need double-digit interceptions to get there.
I looked at the last 10 DPOYs for this story. One, as you remember, was the Panthers’ Luke Kuechly in 2013. He won mostly because of his incredible tackling prowess. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt won the award in 2012 and 2014, however, and has the biggest name in the game on the defensive side of the ball.
Watt could win it for a third time. He is playing well, but he’s on a bad team this year. That may hurt him.
Norman? NFL.com ranks him as the No. 3 contender for the award right now after an extraordinary start to his season, behind Watt at No. 2 and St. Louis defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 1.
Norman leads the NFL with four interceptions through four games. But this award seems a little skewed against cornerbacks. The only corner who has won it over the past 10 years was Charles Woodson in 2009, when he played for Green Bay and had nine interceptions (three of which he returned for TDs). And the last cornerback to win before that was Deion Sanders in 1994.
Doug Evans set the Panthers’ single-season record for interceptions with eight in 2001 – the year Carolina went 1-15. Josh Norman needs five interceptions over his final 12 games to break Evans’ record.
In the past 10 years, four linebackers have won the award, three defensive ends, two safeties and only one cornerback. For Norman to get the votes – and the award is picked by a nationwide media panel of people who regularly cover the NFL – I think he will need to have a big game that includes a pick against someone like Aaron Rodgers (Nov. 8) or Andrew Luck (Nov. 2). And he will have to have at least 10 total interceptions.
That’s not impossible, of course. Norman regularly guards the other team’s No. 1 receiver all over the field, so quarterbacks aren’t going to ignore him completely. And no cornerback in team history has ever been on a better roll than the one Norman is on right now.
Three other notes:
▪ It would be hard to have worse body language on the sideline than Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett did after he got benched Thursday night.
▪ Kudos to Charlotte Motor Speedway for covering all its inside and outside walls with SAFER barriers.
▪ I liked it better when Greg Hardy wasn’t talking to the media.