The Broncos’ worst fears have been confirmed with respect to Javonte Williams. The second-year running back has suffered a torn ACL, and his season is over (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). His colleague Ian Rapoport adds that Williams also tore his LCL and posterior lateral corner, further lengthening his road to recovery.
Williams injured his knee during last night’s loss to the Raiders, and it was immediately thought to be accompanied by a lengthy absence. He underwent an MRI earlier today, which has revealed the damage done to his second NFL campaign, and to the Broncos’ rushing attack.
One of the most highly-touted RB prospects in last year’s draft class, Williams put together a productive college career at North Carolina. That led to him hearing his name called in the second round, with the expectation that he would soon emerge as Denver’s undisputed lead back. He operated in a time share with veteran Melvin Gordon throughout the year, however, totaling 903 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Despite the latter re-signing in the offseason, Williams was widely viewed as one of the top breakout candidates around the league. He saw a slight uptick in usage early in the 2022 season, with a snap share of 54%. In all, he totaled 204 scoreless yards on 47 carries, and was a factor in the passing game with 76 yards on 16 receptions. His loss will be felt on a Broncos offense which has been surprisingly inconsistent with quarterback Russell Wilson.
With Williams sidelined, Gordon could become the team’s every-down back. However, his well-documented fumbling issues have emerged once again this season, as he leads all running backs with four. Still, his consecutive 1,100-yard campaigns during his first two years in the Mile High City point to the production he is capable of. The next member on the team’s depth chart is Mike Boone, who saw a season-high 19 snaps in yesterday’s contest.
Williams will now begin the long recovery process, while the Broncos will look for short-term solutions to replace his production. The team is in better cap shape than most, so an addition from the pool of remaining free agents could be coming soon.