Aug 2, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Isaiah Burse (19) practices kickoff returns prior to the start of a scrimmage at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos rookie Isaiah Burse said as much, but Jordan Norwood is really feeling it. Norwood tore his ACL in practice against the Houston Texans earlier this week, costing him a likely spot on the 53-man roster and potentially the best situation he could have been in in his NFL career.
Like I said, injuries suck.
While Norwood recovers to hopefully have another shot with the Broncos in next season’s camp, the team is left back at square one at the punt return spot, which is currently held by veteran Wes Welker.
We all know Welker’s not going to be the full-time punt returner, so the guy they list behind him on the depth chart is probably going to take over those duties when the season begins. With Norwood out, that guy is Isaiah Burse, who was outperformed by Norwood in camp and preseason play.
Norwood even worked in with the Broncos’ starters in the last preseason game against the 49ers, a symbol of his meteoric rise this offseason. He’d worked his way up to being the backup slot receiver as well as the lead punt returner, but that’s all been washed away.
All that means is it’s time for Isaiah Burse, the undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, to seize the day.
Burse was given the biggest signing bonus of any Broncos UDFA. He played slot receiver at Fresno State where he is coming off of the best season of his career, and he proved throughout his time there that he could be a good punt returner, taking a pair back for touchdowns in 2013.
This is a player who is shifty, quick in short spaces and not necessarily a burner deep down the field. I think a lot has been made of the fact that he’s been out-performed by Norwood to this point in games and in practice, but I don’t think it’s as much a knock on Burse’s ability as it is a praise to the performance of Norwood.
When I was at Broncos practices, I loved some of the things I saw from Burse. Of course, no player is going to catch literally every punt the jugs machine can crank out at them, so dropped balls are going to happen. What I saw from Burse is an instinctive playmaker with the football in his hands. He tries to do too much at times, but he can be really elusive with the ball in his hands.
As a receiver, he snares the ball with his hands and doesn’t allow a lot to come into his body. The skills are there for Burse to be a good slot receiver in the NFL, as well as a punt returner, but it’s important to keep in mind that he’s a rookie.
As long as he can prove his youth is not enough reason for the Broncos to let him go, I think there’s a chance Burse can still crack the final roster. The situation for the Broncos at the punt return spot is not a game. We saw so much shuffling last year and enough games that were so badly affected by muffed punts that it’s not worth a ‘by committee’ approach. Not at all.
Burse knows he has to step up with Norwood having gone down with the injury. But the time is right now.