Breaking down Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon’s Week 1 usage

Sep 12, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn’t go as planned.

The Denver Broncos tragically lost to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night, 17-16. The Broncos had several chances to win the game, but goal-line fumbles from both Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon were too much for the team to overcome. 

After briefly testing out free agency, the Broncos ultimately re-signed Gordon to a reduced one-year deal, reuniting the dynamic duo for the upcoming season.

How Williams and Gordon would split the work in 2022 was heavily debated in the preseason. Would they repeat a 50/50 backfield, or had the time come for Williams to become the true No. 1?

There was a massive disparity between their draft average positions in fantasy football. Fantasy Pros had Williams listed at 12 and Gordon’s ranking plummeting to 39. 

In a press conference a few weeks ago, even Gordon himself admitted that he knew, “They want ‘Vonte’ to be the guy.” 

In 2021, they finished with nearly identical stats. Both backs had exactly 203 rushing attempts, with Gordon slightly edging Williams out in rushing yards, 918 to 903. He also had more total touchdowns, ten to seven. 

Although Gordon was the starter in every game he played last season, on Monday, Williams got the start. 

Despite not being the starter, Gordon had almost twice as many carries against the Seahawks, 12 to Williams’ seven, and finished with 58 rushing yards to 43. 

However, things get more intriguing because Williams was the stat winner as he led the entire team, including the receivers, in receptions with a whopping 11 for 65 yards. Not only did he lead for the Broncos, but he had the second most receptions of any player in the entire NFL for Week 1. 

The good news is that both backs played well. Gordon averaged 4.8 yards per carry, and Williams with an even more impressive 6.1 YPC. The bad news is that their game-costing fumbles are the dominant headlines of both their performances.

So after one week, do we have a conclusive answer on their usage?

Yes and no. 

Week 1 would indicate that the two will split carries similarly to last year, with Gordon potentially being the team’s primary rusher. Regarding goal line work, both guys were given an opportunity for a touchdown, which ended in identical disasters. When it comes to the passing game, Williams is clearly the guy. 

Before Monday’s game, head coach Nathaniel Hackett said the team would go with the “hot hand.” After that embarrassing loss, Denver’s coaching staff will definitely tweak their game plan against the Houston Texans this week. Week 2 may give us a better idea about their utilization moving forward, or it may just continue to confuse us all. 

Denver hosts the Texans (0-1) with kickoff scheduled for 2:25 p.m. MT this Sunday.

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