Melvin Gordon set to thrive in underdog role for Denver Broncos

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 26, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) carries the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos prepare for the 2022 NFL season with a dynamic rushing duo between Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. While the excitement is high for Williams in his second season, Gordon is ready to thrive in the underdog role.

Melvin Gordon’s history with the Denver Broncos

During NFL free agency in 2020, the Broncos signed Gordon to a two-year deal, adding him to the team’s rushing stable with fan favorite Phillip Lindsay.

The veteran back took over primary rushing responsibilities after Lindsay suffered an injury in the regular season opener against the Tennessee Titans.

In his first season in Denver, he finished with 986 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, and 1144 all-purpose yards.

In 2021, Gordon would share the backfield with Williams, who instantly became a fan favorite. Both rushers emerged as a dynamic duo, accounting for 900+ rushing yards each and 17 combined touchdowns.

Each back also had exactly 203 rushing attempts last season, truly splitting the backfield as 50/50.

Despite Williams being favored as the premier back heading into the season, the Broncos re-signed Gordon to a one-year deal to reunite the rushing pair.

A look at Melvin Gordon’s rushing efficiency

Gordon’s time in Denver has proven to be valuable for the Broncos’ offense, especially in the rushing department.

According to Pro Football Reference, Gordon’s two-year stretch in Denver has been his most efficient from a rushing standpoint. During his first season in Denver, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry and 4.5 in his second season.

Since becoming a Bronco, his rushing average sits at 4.6 yards per carry which is a career-high for him in a two-year split.

The veteran back boosted the Broncos’ red zone offense, accounting for six rushing touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Without Gordon’s rushing touchdowns inside the red zone, it’s scary to imagine what the offense would have looked like last season.

So why is Gordon often vilified by fans? When you ask Broncos Country, the common response mentions his fumbles.

Last season, Gordon fumbled three times in 16 games. His rushing counterpart Williams fumbled twice in 17 games.

Ball security is crucial for each back going forward, but the vilification of Gordon has to stop.

Will Nathaniel Hackett embrace both backs?

If the Broncos hope to have more success this upcoming season, both Gordon and Williams should co-exist together in new head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive scheme.

One question that needs to be answered at training camp revolves around how the workload gets split up. Will both players split touches 50/50 or will one player have a 60/40 advantage?

With the NFL’s additional regular season game being added, both backs will have crucial roles on the offensive side of the ball. For Gordon, he’s excited for the challenge ahead and looks forward to sharing carries with Williams.

“I know we’re going to do our thing—me and ‘Vonte’ (RB Javonte Williams) are going to do it,” Gordon said during the offseason. “I don’t really know how we’re going to do the reps and things like that. The goal right now is to really master the playbook and let things play out. I’m definitely going to be ready to battle. That’s what it is. It’s going to make us better—it did last year. I’m going to continue to do that. I don’t care how old people think I’m getting. I feel good. I’ve been sharing the ball since I’ve gotten in the league with running backs, so this is nothing new. I’ve been battling for a while.

The Broncos are set to report for training camp on July 26 at the UCHealth Training Center and both backs will be hot topics heading into the season.