Yesterday NFL analyst Bucky Brooks wrote an interesting article listing guys who he thought excelled because of the system they were in versus guys that could excel in any system or “star” players . Under the system list were Redskins Josh Norman and Kirk Cousins. Before I go into what Brooks said about the guys I want to let everyone know that overall Brooks knows what he is talking about. He knows football. He isn’t one of the regular talking heads as he was in the NFL for 5 seasons before becoming a pro scout. So while I respect his thoughts and even agree with some of it (specifically what he says about Josh Norman) he seems to toe that ambiguous and highly debatable line of a system player versus true star player.
Brooks comments on Norman were a bit confusing. Flashback to the past year when the Redskins brought over talented corner Chris Culliver. Culliver excelled when he was playing with the San Francisco 49ers as a press corner playing heavy in man coverage. A reason many felt he didn’t excel here with the Redskins is that Joe Barry and Perry Fewell run a zone coverage based secondary that didn’t play to Culliver’s strengths.
Brooks argues the opposite. Norman is an excellent zone corner. Has superb vision, and anticipation to jump a receivers route. And for that reason he would not excel in a heavy man coverage based system like the Redskins run. I don’t think the Redskins switched secondary concepts this season so this is a head scratcher from Brooks. He does offer a valid point though in his analysis if we remember Norman’s match up against Odell Beckham Jr.
there are serious concerns about whether he possesses enough speed and athleticism to thrive in a scheme that prominently features man coverage
I agree with Brooks on this point. Norman is not a pure man to man corner. And he does lack the speed to stick with elite burners for all four quarters like OBJ, he will likely have trouble against Antonio Brown (who doesn’t?), and A.J. Green. But he does excel in zone coverage and is extremely smart when reading the quarterback and receiver. Norman’s production with the Redskins this season ought to settle this debate.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago posing the question is Kirk Cousins destined for the System QB label. It appears he is. Brooks thinks Cousins’ success comes from playing in a “dink and dunk” offense where the ball “rarely travels over 10 air yards”. If Cousins were put in an offense that constantly stretches the field say in New Orleans would be have success? I think so. Brooks analysis is not far off in how some Redskins fans felt in the beginning of the season, myself included, but its a criticism that has been proved false. Jay Gruden’s offense features safe short, quick throws. Cousins relied on these in the beginning of the season to get a rhythm going.
As the season progressed the coaches opened up the playbook for Kirk and it payed dividends. I mean who can forget that bomb to Desean Jackson in the Buffalo game? The gashing of the middle of the field with Cousins to Reed versus Philly? Cousins will have to prove he can do it again to shake this mode of thinking by some, but I think his skills and abilities don’t limit him to a “dink and dunk” offense.
What do you think of Brooks comments on Norman and Cousins? Do you think they are fair at this point?