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Norwood hopes to find space outside


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Norwood hopes to find space outside

By D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Falcons running back Jerious Norwood is entering his third season in the NFL. He’s also about to play for this third offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey.

Norwood, a third-round pick, has shown big-play capabilities but has yet to settle into a defined role.

Michael Turner will carry the major load at running back, but the Falcons also plan to utilize Norwood’s speed and pass-catching ability.

He hopes that his role will develop into a situational third-down back, who will also show up as a wide receiver in some four- and five-receiver sets.

“Right now, I really don’t know [my role],” Norwood said. “I’m just going to go out and take it easy, and wherever the coach wants to use me, I’ll be willing to do whatever it is they want me to do.”

As a rookie, Norwood touched the ball 124 times — 99 rushes, 12 receptions and 13 kickoff returns — and made touchdowns runs of 78 and 69 yards.

Last season, he had 182 touches with 28 receptions and 52 kickoff returns.

The Falcons are hoping that Turner and Norwood can keep defenses off balance with their contrasting styles.

One promising sign came during the preseason. Turner was able to gash Indianapolis with power inside runs. The following week, Norwood zipped through Tennessee on some nice outside runs.

In fact, the Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards in all four exhibition games. Last season, they rushed for 100 yards one time.

“The fact that we were able to run the football effectively again, I think that’s very, very important,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

In his first two seasons, both offensive coordinators — Greg Knapp and Hue Jackson — focused on springing Norwood free outside. However, Mularkey did try to run Norwood inside some against Baltimore.

“Either way will be fine,” Norwood said. “It really doesn’t matter to me. I try to do my best to key my reads and make some big plays.”

Norwood hopes to keep developing as a receiver. He could function as a safety valve out of the backfield for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. He’ll also line up outside in some formations.

“We have a couple of formations where they’ll split me out wide and let me do my thing out wide,” Norwood said. “But most of my plays will be for me coming out of the backfield, running the ball.”

Norwood likes the idea of getting the ball in space.

“I feel that’s one of my greatest assets, going one-on-one in the open field,” Norwood said. “I feel that if I can get one-on-one in the open field, I can pretty much win.”

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“Right now, I really don’t know [my role],” Norwood said. “I’m just going to go out and take it easy, and wherever the coach wants to use me, I’ll be willing to do whatever it is they want me to do.”

I find this quote rather disturbing. With less than 1 week to go before the season starts, I'd hope that Nowrood would have a very good idea of what his role is going to be and if/when/how they intend to use him.

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