Last season, the Denver Broncos had one of the NFL‘s more effective two-man backfields. Veteran Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams split snaps nearly equally on a weekly basis, and by the end of the season, they each had exactly 203 carries, with Gordon averaging 4.5 yards a pop and Williams gaining 4.4 per tote. Williams had a bit more receiving volume with 43 catches to Gordon’s 28, but Gordon had the edge in total touchdowns, scoring 10 times to Williams’ seven.
The arrangement worked fairly well in 2021, but going into 2022, people are generally more excited about Williams than they are Gordon. Williams is headed into his second NFL season and just turned 22 years old, while Gordon is headed into Year 8 and recently turned 29, so it’s understandable that one would generate more buzz than the other.
Gordon is conscious of the disconnect, he said at minicamp this week, but he’s also not content to fade into the background behind Williams.
Gordon said he knows people “want me to take a back seat,” according to The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider, but noted that he told general manager George Paton, “I’m not going to lay down” and let Williams run away with the top running back job under new coach Nathaniel Hackett.
The Broncos offense should find more success in 2022 than it did a year ago, with Hackett and Justin Outten at the helm and Russell Wilson under center rather than Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock. That should mean even more opportunities for Gordon and/or Williams to carry the rock (the Broncos are more likely to play with a lead this year than a year ago), and also to find themselves in the end zone. The balance might tip a bit more in the second-year back’s direction this year, but Gordon is still likely to remain a factor.