CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The moment Jordan Norwood muffed a second punt against the Kansas City Chiefs, his position on special teams became slippery. With the Broncos operating with no margin for error, they cannot be submarined by their own return game.
So it came as only a mild surprise Friday when the Broncos activated wide receiver Kalif Raymond from the practice squad.
"It's really a reward. This kid does everything," Kubiak said of Raymond. "He Never misses a rep.... I am really happy for him."
Raymond, listed at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, showed flashes as an undrafted free agent in training camp. The former Holy Cross star threatened to make the final roster before struggling with drops. Lured back to the practice squad, Raymond made a solid impression with his work ethic and improvement this season. He turned down an opportunity with the New York Jets recently to stay with the Broncos on their practice squad.
Raymond is a candidate to help on punt and kick returns, and possibly see snaps on offense as a slot receiver.
"I just need to be in the moment," said Raymond. "The worst thing I can have is the fear of failure."
It speaks to Raymond's practice habits that teammates gave him a loud ovation when Kubiak announced he was joining the 53-man roster. Why?
"He's the ideal Bronco. He's done everything right," explained outside linebacker Von Miler. "You always love to see good things happen to good people."
His promotion muddles the Broncos' roster composition. Denver is carrying eight receivers, unprecedented in the NFL. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas represent the go-to targets. Beyond them, it becomes less certain. Norwood has not made an impact as a slot receiver, and it's fair to wonder if he will become expendable if Raymond capitalizes on his opportunity.
It also raises the question if Denver should use Sanders in the slot some given Jordan Taylor's development this season.
Receiver Bennie Fowler (knee) was ruled out Friday, and Cody Latimer, once a prospect, has fallen with a thud, a healthy scratch in four of the past five games. Marlon Brown, signed to a two-year deal a few weeks ago, could be ready to go against Jacksonville after catching up to speed with the offense and his conditioning.
After what he called "the worst special teams performance he's been involved in," special teams Joe DeCamillis admitted the team was considering a new punt returner. It seemed unlikely Norwood would keep the job after his two muffs, the second of which became a national story when cornerback Aqib Talib shoved Norwood off the field. The two made peace, but it amplified a growing concern: Denver is receiving little to nothing in the return game.
Norwood earned the job because of his ability to catch, not his dynamic returns. If he can't field the ball, it makes trying other options imperative.