It’s unfair to expect any rookie to cover Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who caught 300 yards worth of passes Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. We love to talk about the departed Josh Norman, whom the Panthers jettisoned after being unable to work out a long-term contract. They didn’t want to rent him, via the franchise tag, for a season, and they didn’t want to skew their budget by paying big, big bucks to a cornerback.
When Norman was a rookie, he was promising, but his second season was a disaster. He didn’t become the Legend of Josh Norman until 2014, his third season. He would have made Sunday more difficult for Julio Jones. But if Matt Ryan had the time to set up and pass the way he did Sunday, Jones still would have had a big day, and the Panthers still would have lost.
Norman is one of my all-time favorite Carolina players and people. But let’s not invest him with qualities that are less than real. The Panthers’ problems supersede his absence and their secondary.
Yet there’s hope. Under head coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers finish strong, a testament that the players believe in their boss and his philosophy. This is Rivera’s fifth season as Carolina’s head coach.
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In 2011, his 6-10 Panthers won four of their last six games.
In 2012, the 7-9 Panthers won five of their last six.
In 2013, the 12-4 Panthers won 11 of their last 12.
In 2014, the 7-8-1 Panthers won their final four games.
In 2015, the calendar didn’t matter. They went 15-1.