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One football. Two terrific running backs. Williams, Gordon see room for both

Can't Stand Pat could become a common refrain from opposing offenses
Broncos Football
Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-30 22:28:43-04

ENGLEWOOD — At 6:30 a.m., fans lined up outside the UCHealth Training Center, ready to disappear into the sea of orange and blue on the NFL's Back Together Saturday. The enthusiasm for this Broncos team assaulted the senses — fans roaring for big plays, hollering for autographs and even joining in a "1-2-3 Let's Ride!" orchestrated by quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Wilson Effect was in full bloom. According to the Broncos, 5,000 tickets were gobbled up in nine minutes. The final attendance was 7,211, a record for a non-stadium practice crowd. What they saw did little to temper optimism. At one point, Wilson completed a long rainbow to rookie Montrell Washington as nickelback K'Waun Williams slowed in coverage and left with a leg injury. But the defense continued to show up and show out.

When a receiver slipped, cornerback Ronald Darby pounced, intercepting Wilson and zig-zagging into the end zone. And Pat Surtain displayed why an All-Pro honor remains firmly in his future. He broke up a dart intended for Tim Patrick.

"I'll tell you what that defense, that whole defense (is very good), but Surtain is definitely one of them. That challenge is consistent with him every day. I go over to him each and everyday and ask him, 'Can you let us complete a pass please? Just one,'^" Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten said. "It is a very good defense. We get tested daily."

Those words proved ominous the past six years, a warning of a season of failed first drives, field goals and a dizzying array of punts. Now, everything is different with Wilson. Everyone, it seems, wants to see Russ Cook. But for him to be the Iron Chef he needs ingredients. More than a few sprinkles of the running backs will allow this offense to function at its highest level.

The Broncos have one ball. And two standout backs — Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. They are Thunder and Thunder, two brutes who run downhill with no mercy on defenders. Williams breaks tackles and crushes dreams. Gordon doesn't need Siri to find the end zone, posting 20 scores in two seasons in Denver.

Last year, they both logged 203 carries. With a more creative coach in Nathaniel Hackett, the pair believes room exists for both to excel.

"I hope they work both of us, man. Because we are too talented. Javonte is an up-and-coming player, and he's very talented, and I am talented player. Neither one of us needs to be on the sideline. That's not going to help the team," said Gordon, who rushed for 918 yards and eight touchdowns last season. "We both know we can help. (Hackett) has packages for us to be in at the same time. Hopefully our rotation will work well."

Williams enters year two confident. He runs like a Batman comic book — Boom! Pow! Bang! While he profiles as a bellcow back, Williams has no problem divvying up the workload with Gordon.

"Just our playing style fits together. It’s a change of pace. You get something different every time," said Williams, who rushed for 904 yards and four touchdowns a a rookie. "It's also about longevity. Getting a lot of carries early on, can wear you down and things like that, so being able to split the carries I feel like it will be able to help both of us in the long run."

Hackett has a history of working with two productive backs during his three years in Green Bay. So when he says he can make the puzzle pieces fit with Williams and Gordon, it does not strain credibility.

"We want to put maybe three halfbacks out there. Maybe three tight ends, you never know. It's all about being multiple and getting your best guys out there as much as you possibly can," Hackett said. "I am excited to use both of those guys."

So let's dive into the numbers to reconcile expectations for Williams and Gordon. Even with Aaron Rodgers under center, the Packers refused to fall into a pass-happy trap over the past seasons. Green Bay ranked 15th (2019), eighth (2020) and 18th (2021) in rushing yards. It was similar in rushing touchdowns (7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 and 21st in 2021). Even more salient when looking at why general manager George Paton and Hackett wanted two backs, the Packers ranked 13th, 12th and 17th in rushing attempts.

In fantasy leagues, it makes no sense to be kind and share for a running back. The reality is that the Broncos can use Williams and Gordon. Williams, who still answers to "Pookie" when he's back home in North Carolina, boasts small-town humility and work ethic. His learning curve has been accelerated by having Wilson as a "coach on the field." And he admitted, "I have been telling coach I can't wait to get the pads on (Tuesday)."

Gordon played with Wilson at Wisconsin. He knows the nine-time Pro Bowler, and as Broncos strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow says, "Success leaves clues." Gordon, like Wilson, is no stranger to putting in the hours. He was the last one on the field Friday, catching what seemed like 100 passes from the JUGS machine.

If you have two quarterbacks, you have none. If you have two running backs, you should have one dynamic option.

"I just want the best for him and he wants the best for me. We know it's God's plan for this to work out however it's going to work out, but there’s no jealousy. I want him to be able feed his family and vice versa. We understand the position. We are both fighting for a new contract, we are both fighting for a Super Bowl ring, we are both fighting to make the team great. There's no jealousy," Gordon told Denver7.

"When he's in, I am cheering him on. And when I am in, he's cheering me on. When you've got a chemistry like that — and we can both do it all. And it's not like on third down he has to come out or I have to come out. That keeps defenses uneasy. It's good to know you are playing with somebody that wants you to do your best."

Cornerback K'Waun Williams suffered a leg injury, slowing up and entering the locker room after allowing a touchdown pass. Essang Bassey has been working as the second-string nickelback. ... Rookie Greg Dulcich (hamstring) is making progress toward practicing for the first tme. ... Receiver Kaden Davis, the first player out of the locker room everyday, made a sliding catch near the goal line to end the 11-on-11 portion of practice.