In case you missed it, Denver Broncos wide receiver, Jordan Norwood, tore his ACL today in practice and will be done for the entire 2014 season. It’s a really tough break for a young player who was staring down an almost guaranteed spot on the final 53-man roster.
I use the “g” word, for two reasons.
- With the departure of Trindon Holliday, one of the few holes on the the Broncos’ roster was at kick and punt returner. Throughout training camp and into the preseason, Norwood had separated himself from the competition at that spot, by showing real burst and open field prowess. When OTAs began earlier this year, all eyes were on undrafted rookie free agent, Isaiah Burse. But the rookie hasn’t been able to wrest the job away from the veteran, Norwood.
- Norwood has truly distinguished himself as a WR within the offense. He’s formed a strong rapport with backup QB, Brock Osweiler and his consistent play has even earned him reps and opportunities with the first-team offense.
This is a real blow, for both the player and the team. But it’s not a blow the team can’t weather. However, it does have roster ramifications.
Before the injury to Norwood, I would have bet, were I a bettin’ man, that the Broncos were going to carry 6 WRs this year. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell, Cody Latimer and Norwood.
But really, Norwood’s value wasn’t simply as a KR/PR. He was showing signs of being a truly savvy WR. Isaiah Burse, for example, even if he was a NFL-caliber return man, hasn’t shown much promise as a WR. Yet.
If your name is Trindon Holliday, or Devin Hester, a team can live with that. As the roster stands now though; a deep roster, replete with talent at multiple positions, the team needs multi-tool players. I’m not sure that Burse is at that point yet.
Let’s assume that the Broncos choose to only carry 5 WRs this year. That means that they’ll have to rely on players like Welker, or Omar Bolden, to carry the load at KR/PR. And with how vital Welker is to the offense, nobody wants him back there returning punts.
Bolden can be, at the very least, a serviceable KR, but I’m not sure that his ball skills are advanced enough for the coaches to feel confident putting him under a punt. They might not have a choice though.
Cody Latimer is an option, but he might be too valuable for the Broncos to risk him in the return game. Then again, they had no problem throwing Eric Decker back there from time to time.
It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. Either way, with Norwood going down, it opens up a window of opportunity for other guys to step up and take advantage. Alas, it’s often how reserve or fringe players, get their swing at a NFL roster.
But consider this. If the team rosters 6 WRs, that means that they might have to waive a player at another position who has flashed real potential and value to the team. Think Kenny Anunike, John Boyett, Marvin Austin, Mitch Unrein, or Jerome Murphy.
There are still 2 preseason games left for the Broncos to evaluate the situation. If I had to call it today, I’d say that they’re going to end up rostering 5 WRs.