When we asked for forgotten Falcons to add to this list, we expected we’d get some names that haven’t truly been forgotten, but still would be fun to write about. I don’t know if I expected Jerious Norwood to be maybe the most popular of those names, but here we are.
Norwood quite simply was electricity in human form. He darted, he arced, and he shocked the hell out of you with where he went, which was rarely where you expected. The man averaged over 5 yards per carry, and unlike the criminally underutilized Antone Smith, Norwood actually got a fair number of touches, at least until injury wrecked his career.
Let’s take our latest trip down memory lane with Norwood.
Years in Atlanta: 2006-2010
Falcons statistics: 399 carries, 2,056 yards, 7 touchdowns, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 fumbles; 96 receptions, 912 yards, 3 touchdowns, 9.5 yards per reception
Norwood touched the ball just under 500 times and racked up close to 3,000 yards. While he rarely scored, a quirk he shared with longtime Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, Norwood had a gift for finding an opening and exploiting it, and he rarely coughed up the ball. That made him the ideal second fiddle in an offense that featured Warrick Dunn and then Michael Turner, providing a lot of sizzle after the steak.
Norwood was insanely good his first three seasons in that exact role after joining the team in the 3rd round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He was at the height of his powers during that awful, lost 2007 season, rushing 103 times for 613 yards and reeling in 28 catches for 277 yards, leading the entire NFL in yards per carry average. He was one of the few highlights of that miserable, Bobby Petrino-led team, and the flashes he showed that year were enough to make you believe he might have a feature role waiting for him down the line.
With Michael Turner arriving and tearing the league apart with his bare hands in 2008, however, it was not to be. Norwood’s 2008 saw him take a slightly larger share of the passing game targets but take a slight step back in carries with Turner on board, but he was still an incredibly effective change of pace back. I mean, he did things like this:
Injury has doomed every good or great back the Falcons have had, more or less, and Norwood was no exception. After 2008, he would get just 78 more carries and 20 more receptions, playing in just 12 games between 2009 and 2010 as injuries robbed him of some of his explosive playmaking ability and far too many games. I wrote a little ode to him in early 2011, talking about how he never really got the shot to be a feature back and probably never would have, and the injuries probably bore out the belief of three separate Falcons coaching staffs that he couldn’t take on a full-time workload. He would finish his career quietly with the Rams before hanging up his cleats.
Norwood, despite that limited peak and those limited touches, was a legitimately exciting player who was genuinely dazzling at the height of his powers. His nomination here makes sense given how much time has past since he last played in Atlanta, but few players in recent memory made the most of their opportunities or as remembered as fondly for that as Jerious Norwood.