There’s a new level of excitement coming out of the Denver Broncos’ facility. It’s almost at tangible levels, and the team is feeling it.
Between a massive trade for QB Russell Wilson, the hiring of HC Nathaniel Hackett and his staff, and GM George Paton bringing in another talented class of rookies, the excitement is palpable and will only build as training camp continues.
One of the most important cogs in the new offense is the running game, led by the dynamic duo of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. While we don’t know who the lead back will end up being, both of these backs will be important parts of the engine that keeps the Broncos’ offense moving.
Javonte Williams , No. 33
Report: Javonte Williams won a lot of fans last season with his physical running style and tenacity as a runner. With his thunderous “bull in a china shop” running and contact balance, Williams was among the NFL’s best at breaking tackles last season. Williams also showed potential upside as a receiver out of the backfield, something that the new coaching staff should explore and take advantage of in 2022. For Williams to climb into that upper tier of running backs in the NFL, he’ll need to take several strides forward in his game, as too often he displayed poor recognition and awareness as a runner, turning solid plays into negative ones as a result. Still, Javonte remains the most dynamic part of the Broncos’ run game, and the team is expecting a lot out of him this season.
Melvin Gordon, No. 25
Report: Melvin Gordon was the very model of consistency last season in Denver. Gordon displayed good decision-making, awareness, and vision, excelling on zone runs for the team last season. Gordon maximized his opportunities, often gutting out an extra two or three yards more than he should have gotten. He showed off good athleticism to turn and change direction quickly; broke away from defenders on 21% of his carries. Was often used as an efficient check-down target, posted 7 yards after the catch per reception despite an aDOT of .4 yards. Is aging at 31 years old but hasn’t shown any physical decline. Gordon’s usage this year should remain strong until proven otherwise, and he potentially might be the lead back this year, given the team’s movement towards an outside zone rushing attack.
Mike Boone, No. 26
Report: Mike Boone has taken just seven offensive snaps for the Broncos, but there is a lot of excitement for his potential involvement in 2022. Boone showcased good explosiveness, physicality, and soft hands as a receiver, making him an intriguing option in the Broncos’ run game. Durability has remained a concern since college and will need to be monitored. Boone has special teams experience and should factor into kickoff coverage reps given his explosiveness. Boone should clock in ~100 attempts this year as the Broncos’ RB3 and should serve as an effective change-of-pace back for the team in 2022.
Damarea Crockett, No. 28
Report: Damarea Crockett has stuck around in Denver despite just five offensive snaps since 2019. Crockett has shown good athleticism and an aggressive mindset as a runner, consistently fighting through traffic and has flashed an ability to break through tackles with his physicality. There’s some quickness to his game as well. So far, Crockett hasn’t displayed NFL-level ability with his vision and processing as a runner. Crockett has sporadically filled in on special teams, playing on kick coverage and blocking on returns as injuries and COVID hit the team.
Tyreik McAllister, No. 39
Report: The Mountain East Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Tyreik McAllister’s tape every week was a delightful highlight reel. McAllister’s speed was a dangerous weapon for the Charleston Golden Eagles, and he averaged over 7 yards a carry last season (7.62). His athleticism was simply ridiculous and a total outlier among his Division II competition, and he displayed NFL-caliber speed and explosiveness. McAllister also showcased a dangerous upside as a receiver, running routes out of the backfield, in the slot, and out wide, with a snappiness to his routes that isn’t often seen in running backs. His frame at just 5’9 180 pounds is a cause for concern on his ability to break tackles against NFL competition and his durability. Still, McAllister has almost drool-worthy potential as an offensive weapon and should be a heavy factor in the kick+punt returner competition for the team.
The outlook for this unit depends on the improvement of Javonte Williams. If he shows an improved grasp on the finer aspects of playing running back, this unit can grow into one of the most effective running back stables in the NFL in 2022. Having that can also take a lot of pressure off of Russell Wilson and will help prevent defenses from taking advantage of Wilson’s shortcomings.
I would still expect a pretty good split between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, even if Williams takes that step forward. Gordon was still effective last season and can execute any run concept the team asks of him.
Mike Boone should have the RB3 position behind those two locked up, barring an injury. I don’t expect Crockett or McAllister to be factored into that position battle just yet, and Boone has the skills and experience to hold them off if they indeed are.
The battle to keep an eye on here is McAllister vs Crockett. McAllister has a lot of athletic potential and can be a dangerous weapon, but Crockett has stuck around in the NFL for a reason and has the physicality and frame McAllister doesn’t.