Norman headlines NFL midseason All-Pro secondary

Josh Norman

One vintage Richard Sherman performance on a national TV stage was apparently not enough to land the man widely considered the best cornerback in football a starting spot on NFL.com’s midseason All-Pro team.

Sherman attached himself to Dez Bryant last Sunday and held the Cowboys’ star wide receiver to just two catches for 12 yards, recording four pass breakups and helping Seattle to a much-needed 13-12 victory. But as good as Sherman was in that game against one of the best pass-catches in the league, he has not been one of the NFL’s two best cornerbacks this season — at least not according to writer Chris Wesseling.

The starting cornerback spots on the midseason All-Pro team went to Darrelle Revis, the man most cited other than Sherman when people talk about the NFL’s top corner, and Josh Norman, the popular new candidate in the race.

Norman has been a breakout star for the undefeated Panthers (7-0). In his fourth pro season out of Coastal Carolina, the former fifth-round draft pick has 28 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, 12 pass breakups, four interceptions, and two INT returns for touchdowns. Lining up against the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver each week, he has faced the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins this season.

Wesseling’s write-ups for the All-Pro secondary:

CORNERBACKS

Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers and Darrelle Revis, New York Jets

Quarter-season CBs: Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers and Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

It speaks to Norman’s dominance that he’s first among cornerbacks in opposing passer rating, interceptions and pick-sixes, yet it’s the spectacular plays that have understandably drawn the most attention for the undefeated Panthers. Norman simulated his acrobatic game-clinching interception versus the Saints with an insanely athletic diving pass deflection to prevent a game-winning T.Y. Hilton touchdown Monday night.

Strong cases can be made for Patrick Peterson and Aqib Talib, but Revis is second only to Norman in opposing passer rating in addition to his six takeaways. He’s an all-time great still in the prime of a Hall of Fame career.

SLOT CORNER

Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

Quarter-season slot CB: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

A legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Mathieu plays like a combination of undersized but fierce former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield and disruptive free lancing former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. He’s the first cornerback I’ve ever seen holding the top spot across the board in Pro Football Focus’ grades for coverage, run defense and pass rush.

Noteworthy: Patrick Peterson, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Richard Sherman, Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Desmond Trufant, Adam Jones

SAFETIES

Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings and Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins

Quarter-season safeties: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings and T.J. Ward, Denver Broncos

Smith is not only the best blitzing safety in the league, but also a prime example of Minnesota’s defense challenging Seattle’s as the league’s surest tackling unit. The second spot was a tough choice between Jones and Malcolm Jenkins. Even before his twin pick-sixes in Weeks 6 and 7, Jones was the lone week-in, week-out force on Miami’s defense.

Noteworthy: Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond, Earl Thomas, Charles Woodson, Devin McCourty, Will Hill, Mike Mitchell, T.J. Ward

In the second half of the season, defensive backs playing for teams that are in the playoff race will more than likely separate from the pack and take up more of the spotlight. Which means Jones’ spot as an All-Pro could be in danger, as the Dolphins are currently tied for last place in the AFC East at 3-4.

Also, expect late-season charges from proven pressure players like McCourty and Sherman, as well as sentimental favorite Woodson. In other words, the midseason All-Pro team could look very different than the end-of-season All-Pro team.

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