Last year, the Carolina Panthers found themselves in the Super Bowl with only one loss during the regular season.
They built its dominance off a vicious defense and a highly productive offense.
During the off season, Carolina was able keep most of the players from the previous season, but walked away from one of its key defensive stars, Josh Norman.
Norman wanted the franchise tag and carried a high price tag that Carolina just wasn’t interested in, and they walked away from negotiations.
Carolina finished last season with a 15-1 record.
Norman was a key part of that success and shut down star wide receiver talents such as Julio Jones from Atlanta and Odell Beckham Jr. in New York.
This season, Carolina is 1-5 without Norman and was trampled on by Atlanta.
Julio Jones amassed more than 300 receiving yards alone against the Norman-less Panthers.
This brings up the question: would the Panthers have been better off just giving into Norman’s price tag?
As a supporter of Carolina ever since I was little, I would argue yes.
Last season, he would always come up big on tough assignments and provide game changing plays.
There is only so much guys like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly can do on defense.
Norman was a guy they could match up across from star receivers, while the rest of the team could focus on the others.
I believe Norman canceling out a star receiver was a big part of the defense, which forced the quarterback to spend more time to find the second read.
This gave time for the defensive linemen and linebackers to get to the quarterback to put pressure on him.
I don’t think there is any reason a team should go from 15-1, and starting to show consistency, to a 1-5 start.
It is reminiscent of its 1-7 start a few years ago when they went on to win its division with a record of 7-8-1, but every team in the division was struggling.
Now, the Atlanta Falcons are surging.
Last year, Norman provided 56 tackles, 19 pass deflections, 4 interceptions and 2 touchdowns for 110 yards.
This year, Norman is on track to match those stats and provide the same production for his new Washington team.
Right now, after six games played, Norman has accumulated 26 tackles, with one forced fumble and an interception.
Carolina’s two cornerbacks are currently at about half that production, with Daryl Worley getting only 17 tackles.
Carolina’s other cornerback, James Bradberry, has 13 tackles and one interception.
Both Bradberry and Worley have added zero pass deflections between the two of them this season, while Norman has eight.
Carolina has allowed two of its last three opponents to reach over 40 points in its respective games.
It puts a lot of pressure on the Panthers’ offense to score massive amounts of points when the defense can’t contain other teams like they did with Josh Norman on the team.
The Carolina offensive line has been collapsing and allowing Cam Newton to be hit over and over to the point where he got a concussion.
With a weakened offense, it is up to the defense to keep the team in the game.
Without Norman, it looks to be an enormous task for the Panthers.