Norman pressing the right buttons


CHARLOTTE – No one in the Carolina secondary is playing better than cornerback James Bradberry.

And no one really saw that coming after he didn't play any defensive snaps in Week 1.

"It's crazy how things work out, right?" Norman said. "I'm blessed beyond measures."

Norman, a fifth-round draft choice from Coastal Carolina started 12 games as a rookie in 2012. He didn't start a single game in 2013 and played in just seven.

His role has steadily increased in 2014, and in Week 5 versus the Chicago Bears, Norman returned to the starting lineup.

However, a concussion suffered against the Bears sidelined him for two weeks. But in the four games since, Norman has emerged as the Panthers' most consistent cover corner. Against the Atlanta Falcons, he helped limit wide receiver Julio Jones to six catches on 11 targets for 59 yards.

"I came from a very long way and I'm very grateful," Norman said. "I take that all into perspective – not get too high or too low about the situation. Just be humble and maintain my composure through it all."

Not too high. Not too low. That approach has been essential to his growth in his third NFL season. Through 11 games, he's recorded 30 tackles, six passes defensed, one interception and one fumble recovery.

"I'm excited about the way Josh has played," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said.

So what's changed for Norman? What is he doing well?

"I'm mixing up coverages," Norman explained. "Sometimes I'll be up, but really I am bailing off. You may think I'm playing off, but really I'm playing up."

And when Norman is employing the press, he feels he's at his best.

"My biggest weapon is the press," Norman said. "If I had to say my one power, signature move, I think that would be mine."

Norman entered the NFL as a cornerback with a propensity to get physical with receivers. At times early in his career, that physicality often continued beyond five yards of the line scrimmage, drawing penalties.

But a few years of experience has gone a long way.

"You have to know what you can get away with and what you can't," Norman said. "Practice and confidence is where it all starts. I can see my hand placement, and I'm getting it down pat. I feel real good about it going into the game."

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