A football. Two great running backs. Williams, Gordon see room for both
ENGLEWOOD — At 6:30 a.m., fans lined up outside the UCHealth Training Center, ready to disappear into the sea of orange and blue on NFL Back Together Saturday. The enthusiasm for this Broncos team assaulted the senses – fans roared for big games, roared for autographs and even joined in a “1-2-3 Let’s Ride!” orchestrated by quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Wilson Effect was in full bloom. According to the Broncos, 5,000 tickets were gobbled up in nine minutes. The final attendance was 7,211, a record for an off-stadium training crowd. What they saw did little to dampen the optimism. At one point, Wilson completed a long rainbow to rookie Montrell Washington when nickelback K’Waun Williams slowed in cover and left with a leg injury. But the defense kept showing and showing.
When a receiver slipped, cornerback Ronald Darby fell, intercepted Wilson, and zigzagged into the end zone. And Pat Surtain showed why an All-Pro honor remains firmly in his future. He broke a dart that was meant for Tim Patrick.
“I’ll tell you what that defense, that whole defense is (very good) but Surtain is definitely one of them. This challenge is consistent with him every day. I go to him every day and I ask him, ‘Can we please complete a pass? Just one,” said Justin Outten, Broncos offensive coordinator. “That’s a very good defense. We are tested every day.”
Those words have proved ominous over the past six years, a warning ahead of a season of failed first drives, field goals and a staggering string of punts. Everything is different at Wilson now. Everyone, it seems, wants to see Russ Cook. But to become the Iron Chef, he needs ingredients. More than a few splashes from the running backs will allow this offense to function at the highest level.
The Broncos have a ball. And two outstanding defensemen – Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. They are Donner and Donner, two thugs running downhill with no mercy on defenders. Williams breaks tackles and shatters dreams. Gordon doesn’t need Siri to find the end zone and scored 20 points in two seasons in Denver.
Last year both recorded 203 transfers. With a more creative coach in Nathaniel Hackett, the pair believe there is room for both to excel.
“I hope they work with both of us, man. Because we’re too talented. Javonte is an aspiring player and he’s very talented and I’m a talented player. None of us needing to be on the sidelines isn’t going to help the team,” said Gordon, who had 918 yards and eight touchdowns last season. “We both know we can help.[Hackett]has packages for us in which we can be at the same time. Hopefully our rotation works out well.”
Williams is heading into the second year with confidence. He walks like a Batman comic – boom! phew! bang! While profiling himself as a bellcow back, Williams has no problem sharing the workload with Gordon.
“Our style of play just fits together. It’s a change of pace. You get something different every time,” said Williams, who rushed for 904 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. “It’s also about longevity. Getting a lot of carries early on can wear you down and things like that, so I think splitting the carries can help both of us in the long run.”
Hackett has historically worked with two productive backs during his three years at Green Bay. So when he says he can match the pieces of the puzzle to Williams and Gordon, that doesn’t take away from the credibility.
“We want to field maybe three halfbacks out there. Maybe three tight ends, you never know. It’s about being multiple and getting your best guys out there as much as possible,” Hackett said. “I’m looking forward to using these two guys.”
So let’s dive into the numbers to reconcile expectations for Williams and Gordon. Even with Aaron Rodgers in the middle, the Packers have refused to fall into a passing trap in recent seasons. Green Bay ranked 15th (2019), eighth (2020), and 18th (2021) in rushing yards. It was similar for rushing touchdowns (7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 and 21st in 2021). Even more striking when you look at why general manager George Paton and Hackett wanted two backs, the Packers have finished 13th, 12th and 17th in rushing attempts.
In fantasy leagues, there’s no point in being friendly and sharing for a running back. The reality is the Broncos could use Williams and Gordon. Williams, who still replies “pookie” when he’s back home in North Carolina, boasts of small-town humility and a work ethic. His learning curve was accelerated by having Wilson as his “coach on the field.” And he admitted: “I told the coach I can’t wait to put the pads on (Tuesday).”
Gordon played with Wilson in Wisconsin. He knows the nine-time Pro Bowler, and as Broncos strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow says, “Success leaves a mark.” Like Wilson, Gordon is no stranger to putting in the hours. He was last on the field on Friday and seemingly intercepted 100 passes from the JUGS machine.
If you have two quarterbacks, you have none. If you have two running backs, you should have a dynamic option.
“I only want the best for him and he wants the best for me. We know it is God’s plan to make this work, but there is no jealousy. I want him to be able to feed his family and vice versa. We understand the situation. We’re both fighting for a new contract, we’re both fighting for a Super Bowl ring, we’re both fighting to make the team great. There is no jealousy,” said Gordon Denver7.
“If he’s in, I’ll cheer him on. And when I’m in, he cheers me on. When you have that chemistry – and we can both do anything. And it’s not like he has to come out in third place or I have to come out. That keeps the defense uneasy. It’s good to know that you’re playing with someone who wants you to do your best.
Cornerback K’Waun Williams suffered a leg injury, slowed and entered the locker room after allowing a touchdown pass. Essang Bassey has worked as second string nickelback. … Rookie Greg Dulcich (hamstrings) making progress in first workout. … Receiver Kaden Davis, who was the first player out of the dressing room each day, made a slip near the goal line to end the 11-a-side portion of practice.