One of the bigger concerns heading into offseason was the situation in the running back room with Javonte Williams coming off a major injury and the Denver Broncos seemingly only addressing the issue by signing Samaje Perine who hadn’t ever been a bell-cow type runner.
Those concerns have been effectively obliterated by Williams’ amazing comeback and him playing for the first time on that second preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. They have been further obliterated by the emergence of a potential change-of-pace back that could make the running back position an explosive part of the offense. That would undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin.
After scoring a touchdown in the first preseason game, he continued making himself known in that second game with two more touchdowns. He had seven carries for 45 yards (6.4 ypc) and a touchdown along with two receptions and another touchdown there. He also added a 44-yard kickoff return in the game.
As far as versatility, Head Coach Sean Payton wasn’t surprised in the least about McLaughlin’s explosiveness.
“We’ve kind of been seeing it, if you’ve been paying attention to practice,” Payton said after the game. “I wouldn’t say anyone’s surprised.”
As for McLaughlin himself, he wanted to go over the film before answering on what he did best in the game. His focus is on helping contribute to the win and since that wasn’t the final outcome, he wasn’t content.
“I will have to go over the film,” McLaughlin said. “All that I am trying to do is to help contribute to a win. I have to go back over it because we didn’t win tonight. That is what I am trying to focus on.”
He has the shiftiness in the open field to make guys miss. He showed that ability on both touchdowns and the long 44-yard kick return. This absolutely makes him a lock for the final 53-man roster in my opinion.
Jaleel McLaughlin has burst check out this kick return for 44 yards. He did it at the D2 level with @NDCFB then at FCS with @ysufootball and now with @Broncos Check out the @Hula_Bowl Alum @Speedkills2k_ pic.twitter.com/jdlV9G0uLH— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) August 20, 2023
But even then, McLaughlin credited his big play in the kick return game to Montrell Washington.
“Those guys on the team like Montrell Washington, he is a great dude,” McLaughlin said. “He helps me out a lot back there during practice getting me more comfortable with it. I just got that opportunity in the game and I tried to make the most of it. Shout out to Montrell and all of the kickoff and punt returners that are back there because those vets helps me out a lot.”
It’s hard not to love this kid. He is humble and clearly a great teammate. His explosiveness on the field is a weapon Denver has lacked in recent years and hopefully Payton will be able to capitalize off his unique skillset in the regular season. I can certainly see now why he compared McLaughlin’s play style to that of Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, and Alvin Kamara.