The last time you really saw Jordan Norwood he was racing past a group of Carolina Panthers defenders who didn’t seem to know there was a football game going on. By the time they figured it out, 61 yards later, Norwood had set the record for longest punt return in Super Bowl history. Not a terrible stat to have on your resume.
Of course, on the Denver Broncos, if you want to make it as a wide receiver, you better have a deep resume, and some serious skills. With the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders running around, the rest of the squad has a lot to live up to. Norwood has been in the league long enough to know what he has to do if he wants to land a roster spot.
Norwood’s receiving numbers last year were nothing short of small. He has some potential, but his size limits his ability to play opposite the bigger corners in the league. He did grab the third receiver spot out of camp in 2015, and his talent is undeniable. This could be the year he breaks out on offense, but his true potential may lie in the return game.
A truly great return man can influence an opponents game plan in a major way. Remember when Mike Shanahan decided to kick to Devin Hester against the Bears a decade ago, and Hester decided to score three touchdowns on returns? That kind of game changing performance is rare, but the fear of a guy doing that is huge. No one is saying Norwood is Devin Hester, but if he can do what he did in the Super Bowl, he can be the starting return man.
As a veteran, Norwood is savvy enough to be a solid return man. During the Super Bowl he looked like the only guy on the field who knew what was going on during his record breaking return. Field position is an important aspect of head coach Gary Kubiak’s game plan. The significance of a guy who can give the Broncos an advantage here is huge. Norwood will have to continue to show he is the best man for the job.
Norwood has never made any real contribution of significance on offense. Making a team like the Broncos as a wide receiver is hard enough as it is. With no real stats to lean on after six years in the league it is easy to say he is never really going to be a contributor on offense. If he is not head and shoulders above the next return man, he becomes expendable.
Last season Norwood impressed receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. He talked to Jeff Legwold of ESPN about his surprise rise in the depth chart and his smarts in the film room.
“"He was kind of unknown to everybody, kind of at the bottom of the depth chart, but what he did is he worked ... his confidence went up, coaches' confidence went up, quarterbacks' confidence in him went up. So, they moved him up the depth chart and he just kept going. ... He's probably the smartest guy in the room, including me.”
Norwood is probably going to make the 53-man roster, but now the question becomes, where can he make the most of his chances? If he can be explosive in the return game, it can be a huge advantage for the Broncos. With Thomas, Sanders, Bennie Fowler, and Cody Latimer all vying for the ball, it can get a little crowded for the receiving corps. Norwood knows he can play with those guys, but he can also be the returner the Broncos need.