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Broncos roster review: Running back Javonte Williams

Despite reportedly suffering a major knee injury, the Broncos star running back appears ahead of schedule.

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Houston Texans v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Heading into the 2022 season, the expectations were high for Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams. He was coming off an impressive rookie season and was expected to have a breakout season, especially with quarterback Russell Wilson joining the team. Unfortunately, that did not happen because of the offensive struggles the team had and the fact that Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury during their week four defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders.

According to reports, Williams tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), and posterolateral corner, which is a worst-case injury for any NFL running back. According to Dr. Clint Soppe, a surgeon with the Cedars Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles and an orthopedic consultant for MLS’ LA Galaxy, Javonte’s injury was “definitely more severe” than your typical ACL injury.

“When you have a posterolateral corner, that includes the LCL, but usually there’s some other structures in that area of the knee that are torn as well. Usually, there is a little tendon over there called the popliteus, as well as another small ligament that’s involved. It usually requires what we call surgical repair, where you can stitch those tissues and repair them back to the bone, or what we call a reconstruction, where you can’t repair it, so you’ve got to reconstruct those ligaments with some kind of graft tissue; usually, tissue from a cadaver. That’s what we call an allograft.”

The typical timetable for recovery from this injury ranges anywhere from about one year to potentially longer, and even then, it may take longer to return to their previous form. Even then, returning to their previous form, especially after a significant injury like this, is far from guaranteed.

However, just seven months after suffering this serious knee injury, Broncos running back Javonte Williams was on the practice field for the Broncos' first OTA practice.

Javonte Williams was seen running and cutting without a noticeable limp and at times, wearing a knee brace. Heading into the offseason, many hoped he could be ready to return for training camp, but feared he would miss a portion of the regular season. Somehow, Williams proved everyone wrong and was on the practice field in late May and participating in an OTA practice and proving he is WAY ahead of schedule.

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton added more fuel to the fire when he told reporters that there is a “good chance” that Williams will be ready for the start of training camp. He continued by telling reporters that they are optimistic that Williams can avoid being placed on the PUP to start training camp as well.

So, as the Broncos conclude their offseason, it appears, barring any setbacks, that Javonte Williams will be ready for day one of Broncos training camp.

Player Profile

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 220 pounds

Experience: Third season | Age: 23 years old

Javonte Williams 2022 stats

Javonte Williams played in four games for the Broncos and totaled 47 carries for 204 yards and did not score a touchdown. He also caught 16 balls for 76 yards and 0 touchdowns.

2023 outlook for Broncos running back Javonte Williams

In the short term, you have to be excited about Williams being this far along in his rehab. He participated in OTA’s and minicamp practices without any reported setbacks and was seen running full speed and taking cuts. This is incredible news and now he has another six weeks to continue to heal, rehab, add strength and just prepare for training camp. I think it is safe to assume that he will be on the field for the Broncos come day one of training camp.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton was asked earlier this week about Javonte’s rehab progress and he told reporters that “he is doing well” and that he is “very optimistic”.

“Yeah, I do. He’s doing well. I feel like I was at the start of the offseason. When I arrived, and with that type of injury, it was in the early stages. But yeah, I’m very optimistic.”

He is saying this after watching him practice for weeks so that has to be encouraging news because getting Javonte Williams back is a huge boost for this Broncos offense.

As for the regular season expectations for Javonte Williams, that is still a tough thing to project right now. His progress is incredible and he appears to be on his way to being the Broncos lead back this season, but there are still some concerns. He has yet to take any contact since the surgery and his play style is violent so how will his knee react to that? Will he lose any speed, burst, or explosion? He was never a real burner before this injury so any loss there could be detrimental to his game. Then you have the mental side of things. Is he mentally ready to take on contact and does he trust his knee to hold up and allow him to play the game like he usually does? The only thing we can do here is wait and see, but the Broncos seem confident that he will return to form without any setbacks.

I say this because the only significant addition they made to their backfield is signing veteran running back Samaje Perine. He has proven to be a valuable back to have in your stable but he has yet to top 95 carries in a season. I view him as a third-down back who can be a solid 1B behind an established bell cow back. The rest of the Broncos' backs are inexperienced players who are fighting for a roster spot. So, to me at least, this is a sign that the Broncos seem confident in Javonte being fully recovered and ready to handle the bulk of the carries in their new and improved offense.

Now, things can change between now and the start of training camp, but the Broncos' actions and words seem to point to their confidence in Javonte Williams returning to form. If he can do that, his addition is a huge boost to the Broncos offense which figures to be improved under Sean Payton and likely will have an improved offensive line. A strong rushing attack led by Javonte Williams paired with Sean Payton getting the best out of Russell Wilson could lead to big things in Denver.

We just need to cross our fingers that Javonte Williams knee can hold up and that he remains healthy for the 2023 season and beyond.

Final Thoughts

It is hard not to be excited about Javonte Williams and his potential in this offense. In my opinion, if they have him on the field for the start of OTA’s and he is running and cutting without any issues, he will be good for camp and certainly the start of the regular season.

The Broncos added a bunch of mean run blockers in the trenches this offseason and figure to run the ball early and often this year. If they can improve there and get a near or fully-healthy Javonte Williams back, we could see the Broncos back in the postseason conversation. I also think we will see Javonte Williams be a front-runner for the comeback player of the year award as well.