A little over three weeks ago, I decided to start this series of articles for our advent calendar. Over the last 23 days we've revisited some of the highest highs and some of our lowest lows. We've looked back through some outstanding draft picks and remembered some busts. All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing days gone by, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Like any normal advent calendar though, Christmas eve is the last day with a chocolate, so I'm afraid this will be the finale.
Going all the way back to December 1st I documented Cam Newton's case for NFL MVP, in the time since he has ascended to even higher levels of play and leading his side to 14-0 has all but secured the award for the quarterback. Fittingly, I will finish by making a case for another of our players for an award. Of course it will be number 24;
Whilst JJ Watt is still the overwhelming favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award, Josh Norman has strived to put his name right in contention. He has been absolutely dominant this season, so far recording 50 tackles, 16 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions, two of which he turned into six points. He has matched up against the oppositions number one wide out each week and his numbers have been staggering. So far holding Mike Evans, T.Y Hilton, Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones to an absurd 89 yards from 9 catches and NO touchdowns. Just to put this in more perspective, for the season those five combine to average more than 1,000 yards each (5,362) and more than five touchdowns each (28), which works out as each players averaging 83 yards per game, Norman has held them to an average of 18.
It's not always been a fairy tale for the South Carolina native though. He made an excellent start after being drafted in the fifth round in 2012. He excelled in OTA's and the coaching staff were sold, naming him opposite Chris Gamble as the starting CB. He fared well, but faded towards the end of the year and was eventually dropped. Going into the 2013 season he fell further down the depth chart, being named behind veterans Drayton Florence and Captain Munnerlyn as well as rookie Melvin White.
In 2014 there was talk of Norman being released in the off season but thankfully he dug his heels in, and proved the coaching staff wrong. He forced his way back into the starting line-up, allowing 0.77 yards per snap for the year and limited quarterbacks who through his way to a QB rating of a miserly 53.2.
The end of last season led us to believe he could be an outstanding player and fortunately he has delivered with aplomb. His swagger may be construed in some circles as arrogance, but who cares if it is? He is making brash statements pre game, and then delivering exactly what he promised during the game. His performances this season have just earned his the reward of his first Pro Bowl selection, but we Panther fans would like to see his level of performance rewarded with an appearance in different Bowl game.
He still very much an outsider for DPOY, but if he shuts down Julio Jones, and Mike Evans in the next two games, helping his side become only the second ever team to complete a regular season 16-0, then why the hell can't he win it?