Javonte Williams

Broncos RBs Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine Competing For One Spot?

With two young running backs expected to earn a pair of roster spots in Denver, the Broncos may have to choose between two of their more experienced rushers. Troy Renck of the Denver Post believes Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine are ultimately competing for one roster spot.

This would be an unfortunate turn of events for Williams, who was a second-round pick only three years ago. The North Carolina product never truly got a chance to lead the backfield in Denver. He did top 1,200 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, but he still split most of his reps that season with veteran Melvin Gordon. Then, his sophomore season was limited to only four games thanks to a torn ACL, LCL, and posterolateral corner.

To Williams’ credit, he managed to return and start 13 of his 16 appearances in 2023. However, he averaged only 3.6 yards on his 217 carries, and while he finished the year with 47 receptions, that resulted in only 228 yards. While that drop in production could easily be attributed to his recovery from a devastating knee injury, the Broncos will surely use training camp and preseason to evaluate the running back ahead of the 2024 campaign. For what it’s worth, Renck observed that Williams “looked bigger and stronger” during the spring.

Perine was productive during his first season in Denver, finishing with a career-high 50 receptions and 693 yards from scrimmage. Heading into his age-29 season, Perine is the most veteran member of the Broncos RB corps, and with rookie Bo Nix under center, the Broncos may lean on the former fourth-round pick (especially in the passing game). Still, as Renck notes, Williams has also proved to be a capable pass-catcher, so the offense wouldn’t be completely lost without Perine.

Renck believes rookie fifth-round pick Audric Estime will earn one of the spots on the depth chart. The Notre Dame product had a breakout campaign in 2023, finishing the year with 1,341 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. The rookie suffered a knee injury during OTAs but is expected to be a full participant at training camp.

The team is also expected to hang on to Jaleel McLaughlin. The 2023 UDFA had a productive rookie season in Denver, finishing with 570 yards from scrimmage. He also notably hauled in 31 of his 36 targets, perhaps making him an option on third downs.

Latest On Broncos’ RBs Group

It’s certainly safe to say that the Broncos’ two-year tenure with Russell Wilson leading the offense did not go as planned. While Wilson himself certainly could’ve been the key factor in his team’s underwhelming performances, a lack of support was a factor, as well. Over the past two seasons, the Broncos were one of only two teams without a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver, the other being the Ravens, who have the luxury of a fielding a two-time MVP at quarterback and a top defensive unit.

With Wilson now out in Pittsburgh, the Broncos’ supporting skill players are going to be that much more crucial to the team’s success in 2024. And with the Jerry Jeudy joining Wilson in the AFC North, the running backs, in particular, are going to need to step up for a brand-new quarterbacks groups.

The team’s top three rushers from last season – Javonte Williams (217 attempts-774 rushing yards-3 rushing touchdowns), Jaleel McLaughlin (76-410-1), and Samaje Perine (53-238-1) – all return to the roster in 2024. Additionally, the team added Notre Dame rusher Audric Estime in the fifth round of this year’s draft and Memphis-product Blake Watson as an undrafted free agent.

With fullback Michael Burton all but guaranteed a spot on the initial 53-man roster, per ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, that leaves three or, maybe, four roster spots over which the above players will compete. Williams is a likely lock for a roster spot. The former second-round pick has yet to record a 1,000-yard season or score more than four touchdowns in a year, but he’s been their best rusher over his three years in the league, despite being hindered by injury. And, while Watson flashed at times in the team’s spring program, he’s likely the first odd man out, though he could wind up on the practice squad.

That leaves two or three spots for three players. Denver could decide to roll with four running backs and a fullback and eliminate the need for a decision, but more likely, Burton’s presence on the roster will probably limit the Broncos to three roster spots for four backs.

As an undrafted rookie out of Youngstown State, McLaughlin showed up in a big way as Williams dealt with an injury early last season. McLaughlin got the nod over Perine in those few games, but for most of the season, they held similar rushing responsibilities behind Williams. The big difference is that Perine was, by far, the team’s best receiving back throughout the year. Perine’s 455 receiving yards outpaced both Williams (228) and McLaughlin (160) combined, though the latter two both had two scores each through the air to Perine’s zero.

With 2,261 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish in the past two seasons, Estime could potentially bring a production that was lacking in the room last season. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Estime also brings a physical presence to the room that wasn’t there last year.

It’s difficult to determine who holds more value between McLaughlin and Perine. Perine holds the obvious advantage of experience and receiving prowess, while McLaughlin was relied upon in Williams’ absence last year and, at 23 years old, has much more tread on his tires on a much cheaper contract. Then, consider if Estime provides more value than either player, and the decision muddies even further.

In the end, Denver may decide that it serves the team best to hold on to all four running backs going into the season. If not, the Broncos decision could come down to whether they prefer the experience of Perine, the contract of McLaughlin, or the potential of Estime.

Broncos To Feature ‘Wide Open’ RB Competition; TE Lucas Krull’s Role To Expand

Javonte Williams‘ October 2022 ACL and LCL tears upended the Broncos’ running back plan. The ill-fated Melvin Gordon partnership ended weeks later, and although Williams returned in time for Week 1 last year, the former second-round pick did not deliver too many reminders of his promising rookie season. As a result, his starting role is no longer guaranteed.

The Broncos are set to feature a wide-open running back competition that will include the three holdovers from last season — Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin — along with fifth-round pick Audric Estime and UDFA Blake Watson, the Denver Post’s Parker Gabriel writes. Williams and Perine are going into contract years, with the former not acquired during Sean Payton‘s time with the team.

Payton being present for the other four RBs’ acquisitions creates an interesting outlook for Williams, a difficult tackling assignment but a player who averaged just 3.6 yards per carry behind a mostly healthy offensive line last season. Williams, who totaled 1,219 scrimmage yards as a rookie despite splitting time with Gordon, surpassed 50 rushing yards just twice over the 2023 season’s final eight games. Next Gen Stats’ rushing yards over expected metric slotted Williams (minus-83) in the bottom 10.

Perine operated as a key passing-down presence for Russell Wilson, making important contributions during Denver’s midseason five-game win streak. He is tied to a two-year, $7.5MM deal. Neither Perine nor Williams has any guaranteed money remaining.

The Broncos saw some promise from Watson in this department during their offseason program. An Old Dominion recruit who transferred to Memphis in 2023, Watson amassed 480 receiving yards on 53 receptions during his final college season. While Watson could potentially clear waivers en route to the Broncos’ practice squad, McLaughlin is the latest reminder — following the likes of ex-Broncos Phillip Lindsay and C.J. Anderson — UDFA RBs can force their way onto 53-man rosters. The 5-foot-7 back averaged 5.4 yards per carry, totaling 410, as a rookie.

Payton making the decision to carry three running backs and fullback Michael Burton would also stand to put Williams and McLaughlin at risk, even though both have shown promise at points. Although Estime missed offseason time due to a knee injury, the rookie is expected back for training camp. Estime’s 4.71-second 40-yard dash time — the worst among RBs in Indianapolis — likely cost him in the draft. (Though, he clocked 4.58 seconds at Notre Dame’s pro day.) But the Fighting Irish product is coming off a 1,341-yard, 18-touchdown season.

During OTAs, The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider noted Williams, Perine and McLaughlin would face challenges to maintain their 2023 roles. With the Broncos potentially only keeping three RBs, this sets up an interesting competition.

Running back features more options than tight end in Denver, as the team is still counting on Greg Dulcich to shake his injury issues. Battling chronic hamstring trouble, the former third-round pick did not practice fully during the team’s offseason program. While Dulcich is expected to resurface during training camp, Payton alluded to a role expansion for former UDFA Lucas Krull.

Someday soon, they’re going to know who No. 85 is,” Payton said (via Gabriel) of Krull. “He has good vertical speed. He’s young, so we think there is room to grow. That was one of the reasons we signed him.”

Not technically a Payton import from New Orleans, Krull did initially land in the NFL as a Saints UDFA. That arrival came in 2022, months after Payton’s departure, though the Saints’ coaching staff identifying the former Florida and Pitt tight end probably played a role in the Broncos adding him to their practice squad in August 2023. Krull did not make the Saints’ 53-man roster last year and joined Payton in Denver soon after.

Krull, who accumulated 451 receiving yards during his final college season, caught just eight passes for 95 yards in limited duty last year. He joins the re-signed Adam Trautman, a Payton draftee in New Orleans, and Dulcich as the Broncos’ top TEs. Denver looked into tight ends in free agency but did not add anyone, and after Trautman’s 204 yards led Broncos tight ends last season, this profiles as an area of concern. If Dulcich is unable to stay healthy, Krull stands to be an important part of the Broncos’ first Bo Nix-centered offense.

Broncos’ Javonte Williams Confirms Knee 100% Healthy

Having won two straight games, reasons for optimism are emerging for the Broncos entering the second half of the season. Much of any future success on offense in particular will no doubt depend on the running game, with Javonte Williams at the heart of the rushing attack.

The 2021 second-rounder flashed considerable potential as a rookie, posting 903 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. That raised expectations for Year 2, but Williams was limited to only four games due to an ACL tear. Recovery from the injury has been a months-long process, but by now he has returned to full strength.

“Yeah, my confidence is definitely at 100%,” Williams said, via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson, when asked about the status of his knee in light of a recent uptick in production “I feel like I can do anything I was doing my rookie year and I feel like everything is good.”

The 23-year-old has rushed for at least 52 yards four times this season, including each of the past three games. That includes eclipsing the 80-yard mark in wins over the Packers and Chiefs; in the latter contest, Williams added his first touchdown of the season in the passing game. With the Broncos finding success in the ground attack recently, Williams will be a key player to watch down the stretch for Denver.

The 3-5 outfit has been at the center of considerable criticism for new head coach Sean Payton given expectations for the former Super Bowl winner and the presumption his arrival would help bring about a rebound from quarterback Russell Wilson. The latter has performed better than his disastrous debut campaign in the Mile High City last year, but the rushing attack has been a source of success. The Broncos entered Week 10 in 11th in the league with an average of 117 yards per game on the ground.

Undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin has established himself as a capable depth running back (7.1 yards per carry, 333 scrimmage yards) but Williams should be in line for a large workload over the rest of the season. The declaration that his knee is back to its pre-injury form is a welcomed one given his importance to any potential Broncos playoff push.

Broncos Likely To Limit RB Javonte Williams’ Workload Upon Return

The Broncos’ offense will have a new play-caller in the form of head coach Sean Payton as well as new faces up front. One of the most signficant factors in the team’s ability to rebound from last season’s struggles, though, will be the play of lead running back Javonte Williams.

The 23-year-old’s second season in Denver was limited to just four games due to an ACL tear. The timing of the injury led to questions about his Week 1 availability for 2023, but he was able to take part in training camp, as both he and the team had hoped. That suggests Williams could be available to handle a full starter’s workload when the Broncos’ season kicks off next week.

However, ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that Denver is expected to take a cautious approach with the North Carolina alum as he returns to game action. Players coming off ACL injuries typically experience a period of game time at less-than-normal production before truly reaching 100% health. It was thus come as little surprise if Williams were to be used sparingly in the first few games of the campaign.

Presuming that takes place, Samaje Perine would be in line to handle a larger workload. The 27-year-old signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal in free agency to serve as Denver’s pass-catching backup behind Williams. Perine has averaged a modest 4.0 yards per carry in his career, but he has 736 yards (7.3 per reception) and six touchdowns through the air, leading to expectations for continued production in the latter capacity.

Perine’s 175 carries as a rookie represent by far the most he has received in a single season in his career. He should not come near that mark if Williams is able to serve as a workhorse relatively soon, but the former will have an opportunity to earn extra playing time down the road if he delivers a strong performance early in the campaign.

Broncos RB Javonte Williams Avoids PUP To Start Camp

JULY 27: Williams confirmed (via 9News’ Mike Klis) Thursday he has been cleared for contact work. The North Carolina alum said he was told his recovery timetable could last around a year. Instead, he has been cleared before the 10-month mark. Sean Payton said the team will proceed cautiously with Williams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.

JULY 23: The Broncos delivered some good news as they announced some injury list placements today, leaving third-year running back Javonte Williams off of any lists as he continues to work his way back from last year’s season-ending injury. While there’s still work to be done, Williams’s continued participation in this offseason points to a Week 1 return for Denver’s lead back.

Williams suffered a blow to his sophomore season when he suffered a torn ACL after only four weeks of play last year, ending his season. The initial diagnosis was dire enough, but further reports detailed that Williams had also torn his LCL and posterior lateral corner, making his road to recovery a bit longer.

As Denver entered into the offseason, the goal became clear: get Williams back in time for training camp. Things were looking positive as Williams was on the field for spring activities. He only worked out in a limited capacity, but getting Williams on the field at all that early was a big step. Earlier this month, Williams expressed much of the same optimism that his team had been expressing publicly, believing himself that he’d be able to make a return by training camp. His absence from any designated injury lists today is yet another good sign of where he’s at in his recovery.

Williams injury had originally occurred during a season in which he was expected to take on much more work after splitting carries with Melvin Gordon as a rookie. When he returns this season, though, there won’t be too big of an expectation to work as a bell-cow in the Broncos offense. New head coach Sean Payton is certainly familiar with two-headed rushing attacks dating back to the Pierre ThomasReggie Bush duo and the Alvin KamaraMark Ingram combinations in New Orleans. While Gordon is now in Baltimore and Mike Boone found his way to Houston, Denver plans to pair Williams with former Bengals rusher Samaje Perine, who signed with the team in March. Perine has a history of being a strong RB2 over his career, which should take a bit of the pressure off of Williams’s shoulders.

While Williams’s absence from any lists is the main news, the Broncos did move four players from the active roster, according to Broncos lead writer Aric DiLalla. Outside linebacker Baron Browning and wide receiver Kendall Hinton were placed on the physically unable to perform list, while wide receiver K.J. Hamler and nose tackle Mike Purcell were placed on the non-football injury list.

Browning underwent knee surgery in June, but he hasn’t yet been ruled out from returning in time for the regular season. Hinton also went through a knee procedure, so his placement on the list is no surprise. Hamler was expected to be ready in time for training camp as he works his way back from a pectoral tear, but Denver will have to wait a little longer.

Broncos RB Javonte Williams Expects To Be Cleared For Training Camp

A busy Broncos offseason has been marked by several changes on the field and the sidelines, but one of its other top storylines has been the recovery process of Javonte Williams. The team’s lead running back provided the latest optimistic remarks on that front.

Williams spoke about his rehab from the torn ACL and LCL he suffered in October during a football camp he co-hosted. When asked about his readiness to return to the field for training camp later this month, the 23-year-old replied, “I mean, that’s the plan. I feel like I’m ready to go”(h/t ESPN’s Jeff Legwold).

That optimism matches what the Broncos have expressed publicly during the offseason regarding Williams’ ability to be fully healed in time for Week 1. The North Carolina product took part in OTAs (in a limited capacity) in May, adding further to the belief that the PUP list could be avoided during the summer. Receiving clearance in time for training camp would be another positive development.

“It’s just all about the evaluation, how the Broncos feel about it,” Williams – who stated that he will continue practicing while wearing a brace for the time being – added. “Just seeing how I feel, moving, just trying to get my speed back to normal, things like that.”

The Broncos added Samaje Perine in free agency, a move which should allow the veteran to play a notable role in the team’s offense. Denver did not bring back Melvin Gordon or Mike Boone, however, nor did they spend any draft capital at the RB position. As a result, Williams will once again be counted on to serve as the focal point of Denver’s ground game upon return.

Questions will understandably be asked about the former second-rounder’s ability to resume his productive form when back on the field, given the time usually required for players to fully regain their explosiveness after ACL injuries. As things currently stand, however, Williams can be expected to be cleared well in advance of Week 1.

Latest On Javonte Williams, Broncos’ Backfield

The Broncos intend to bring Javonte Williams along slowly as he returns from a devastating knee injury. If Williams isn’t ready to go for the start of the regular season, the team does have enough running back depth to temporarily get by, but Mike Klis of 9News.com believes the front office could still add another player to the mix.

Klis writes that it’s “possible” the Broncos bring in a veteran RB to their current grouping. However, a move wouldn’t be made before head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton get an extended look at Williams during training camp.

Williams’ sophomore season came to an end in Week 4 when he suffered a torn ACL, LCL, and posterolateral corner. Week 1 of the 2023 campaign would mark 11 months since the RB suffered his injury, and Klis writes that Williams did look good during his limited work at minicamp.

The Broncos’ ideal plan would be to have Williams in the starting lineup for the start of the season, but the team doesn’t want to be unprepared if the former second-round pick is forced to miss time. After splitting work with Melvin Gordon for the first two seasons of his career, Williams is primed to lead the RB room in 2023. After compiling 1,219 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns as a rookie, Williams had 280 yards in three-plus games before suffering his knee injury in 2023.

The Broncos brought in Samaje Perine to serve as the top backup in 2023, but with little starting experience in six NFL seasons, he would’t be relied on to be an every-down back with Williams sidelined. The Broncos are also rostering Tyler Badie, a sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2022 who was scooped up by Denver late in the season. Former Saints backup Tony Jones Jr. and undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin round out the RB room.

The Broncos have been connected to Dalvin Cook throughout the offseason, but this most recent report indicates that the organization is looking for a temporary fill-in for Williams…not someone who would completely revamp the depth chart.

Broncos Unlikely To Sign Dalvin Cook

The Broncos’ running back depth chart is presently topped by Javonte Williams, who tore his ACL in October, and career second fiddle Samaje Perine. Given that, and given GM George Paton‘s Vikings ties, Denver has been considered a logical landing spot for four-time Pro Bowl RB Dalvin Cook, who was released by Minnesota several days ago.

Mike Klis of 9News.com has thrown some cold water on those rumors, reporting that the Broncos “do not appear to be in on” Cook. Before Cook’s release became official, Klis reported that Denver was highly unlikely to swing an eleventh-hour trade for him, and financial considerations certainly played a part in that decision. Had the Broncos acquired Cook via trade, they would have been on the hook for his $10.4MM salary in 2023, as Cook had no desire to work out a restructure as part of a trade. And the Vikings, who clearly cut Cook for cap reasons, may not have been inclined to eat much salary to facilitate a swap.

Even though Cook is now on the free agent market, money remains a key issue. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), Cook still wants to make close to the $10.4MM salary he was due to earn with the Vikings, and multiple reporters (including Jackson) have suggested that he is willing to be patient in his efforts to secure that payout. At present, the Broncos only have about $6MM of cap space.

Of course, Denver could create the necessary salary cap room if it really wanted to, but on-field factors are also influencing the club’s decision to stay away from Cook. Williams participated in OTAs, and though he has yet to take part in 11-on-11 drills, Klis estimates that the third-year pro has a better than 50-50 chance to start the regular season opener. Williams clearly has RB1 ability, and even if he is not fully healthy for the start of the 2023 campaign, it does not make sense to sign Cook to a lucrative contract and not have a spot for Williams when he is ready to return to the field.

Klis does believe that the Broncos could seek to add another player with starting experience to its running back room, as the options behind Williams and Perine — Tony Jones, Jr., Tyler Badie, and UDFA rookie Jaleel McLaughlin — are either uninspiring or unproven. Such an addition, though, would be considerably less expensive than Cook.

If Cook’s market does not materialize in the way that he hopes, or if the current reports on Williams’ prognosis prove overly optimistic, it is possible that the Broncos could circle back to Cook (after all, they have reportedly monitored the Florida State product for some time). Until then, however, it appears that the Dolphins will remain the frontrunners for his services.

Javonte Williams Participating In OTAs

Javonte Williams‘ timetable continues to point to the talented running back being ready well before the Broncos’ regular season begins. After Sean Payton indicated Williams had a shot to avoid the active/PUP list and begin training camp on time, the third-year back was on the field for Denver’s OTA session Thursday.

Payton confirmed (via 9News’ Mike Klis) Williams worked in a limited capacity Thursday. Considering Williams’ position and the nature of his injury, any participation in OTAs represents good news for a Broncos team that lost much of its starting lineup to injury last season.

The Broncos lost Williams in Week 4 of last season, four days before they lost left tackle Garett Bolles for the year. Williams suffered ACL and LCL tears, along with posterolateral corner damage, and GM George Paton‘s April assessment — which hinted a return at some point during the 2023 season — did not paint a rosy outlook for the North Carolina alum. But everything since looks to signal Williams, barring a setback, will be ready in time for Week 1.

With Melvin Gordon out of the picture, Williams has a clear path toward the lead role in Denver’s backfield. Known for his tackle-shedding ability, the former second-round pick totaled 1,219 scrimmage yards as a rookie while playing alongside Gordon, who started for most of that 2021 season. The Broncos not only lost Williams on offense but played without Bolles, tackle Billy Turner, center Lloyd Cushenberry and wide receivers Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler for most or all of last season. Patrick, who suffered an ACL tear during training camp last year, has received full clearance to return.

Although Gordon and Mike Boone are no longer on the roster, the Broncos are expected to make free agent acquisition Samaje Perine a major part of their offense. Denver gave Perine a two-year, $7.5MM deal that came with $3MM guaranteed. Perine turned down a similar Bengals offer due to the prospect of increased playing time. With Payton often using multiple backs regularly — from the Pierre ThomasReggie Bush tandem to the more recent Alvin KamaraMark Ingram setup — it should be expected Perine will be asked to play a big role alongside Williams this season. From the looks of this situation in May, however, it does not appear Perine will be called upon to start in place of Williams early in the season.