Carolina Panthers

Saints QB Drew Brees: Panthers CB Josh Norman deserves DPOY consideration

Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) has been asked to shut down the opponent’s top receiver each week, including Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant (88), and he has thus far been up to the task.
Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) has been asked to shut down the opponent’s top receiver each week, including Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant (88), and he has thus far been up to the task. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been impressed with Josh Norman since the Carolina Panthers cornerback was a rookie starter in 2012.

But Brees believes Norman has taken his game to another level, saying Norman should be in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I know that his start there in Carolina was kind of in and out of the lineup. But I always felt like there was something about him and he was going to be a really good player,” Brees said Wednesday during a conference call.

“I remember when they came here last year in that game I just saw a confidence in him that was different. And obviously he’s played at an extremely high level from that point until now. In my opinion, he deserves to be in consideration for defensive MVP, along with some other pretty big names out there.”

Norman is tied for sixth in the league with four interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns. Norman has thrown blanket coverage on some of the league’s top wideouts, and several teams didn’t bother to throw his way.

“He’s had a great year. He’s as complete a corner as there is,” Brees said. “When you think of a corner, you think of man coverage. He’s as good in zone as he is in man. And he’s as good making tackles and doing things in the run game as he is at covering. I think that’s rare to see in a top-flight corner, but he’s got all those traits.”

Norman was equally effusive in his praise of Brees, who was sidelined by a shoulder injury in Week 3 when the Panthers beat New Orleans 27-22 in Charlotte.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. Super, super classy guy. He will go down in the Hall of Fame one day,” Norman said. “Who throws 5,000 yards every year since he’s been here? I don’t know any other quarterback that does that. He just slings the ball and his cerebral approach is (unreal).”

With Brees out, backup Luke McCown threw for 300 yards in Week 3 and had the Saints in scoring position in the final two minutes when Norman laid out to make a game-sealing interception in the end zone.

It was one of the closest calls this season for the Panthers (11-0), who can clinch their third consecutive division title with a win in New Orleans or an Atlanta loss to Tampa Bay. No NFC South team had won back-to-back titles before the Panthers last year.

Norman, a noted horse buff, said the Panthers are going for the trifecta.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever done that in this division and that’s going to be big for us,” Norman said. “And I know Mr. Richardson’s going to be happy, his big grin on his face. It’s going to give him something to look at and look forward to. But at the same time we know we’ve got to come out here and do the job.”

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