The Denver Broncos handed the ball to eight different running backs this season, as they were berated by a rash of injuries at the position that led to them turning to, and eventually completely relying on, aging veteran practice squad backs to carry the load.

How did the Broncos’ running backs perform in 2022 as a result of all of this shuffling, and where do they stand now, in 2023? Let’s look.

Javonte Williams

Before the season, so much of the 2022 Denver Broncos hype centered around Javonte Williams.

He looked to be a burgeoning elite running back and, more importantly, a perfect compliment to Russell Wilson, which would hearken back to the days of Beast Mode when Wilson was at his best.

Now, no one expected Wilson’s decline to be what it was, but the evidence of some backsliding from Wilson has been present since mid-2020, when defenses shifted to playing two-high shells against Wilson at a much higher rate, leading to the belief that Williams could help return Wilson to elite form.


These two-high shells keep both safeties back deep pre-snap, allowing for greater disguise, and allowing the defense to defend passes to the boundary and passes downfield much easier. The vulnerability of these shells is that it makes you much more vulnerable to a physical rushing attack, and it opens up passing lanes in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field, where Wilson famously struggles.

As a result, to defeat these conservative coverages, Wilson is more reliant on the run game, specifically a north-south one, and Williams is perfect for just that.

Through the first four weeks, the results were mixed.

Williams was the lifeblood of the offense in Week 1, receiving more targets than any player not named Cooper Kupp, and in Week 2 Williams had the fourth-most productive day on the ground by a Broncos running back this season, but it was also clear there were some growing pains with shifting to the new system. Coach Hackett’s outside zone scheme places an emphasis on vision, which is Williams’ kryptonite at this stage in his development, and although he was still able to be a productive back, it was also clear he’d have to grow in this area to reach his full potential. In Week 3, he was unsurprisingly bottled up by the San Francisco 49ers, and then, partway through his matchup with the Raiders, Williams suffered one of the most devastating knee injuries we’ve seen in recent NFL history,

Williams tore his ACL, his LCL, and his PLC, all in one fell swoop.

It was the most heartbreaking moment of the Denver Broncos season.

Not only because it immediately gutted the offense of an element they so desperately needed, but because it might have permanently robbed us of enjoying one of the most fun young stars the NFL world had to offer.

Per Pro Football Focus’ Doctor Mario Pilato, their injury expert, players who suffer multiple-ligament knee injuries have just a 64% chance to ever return to the NFL, and they have just a 30% chance to ever return to pre-injury form.

That suggests that not only did Broncos Country miss out on Williams’ undeniably joyful style of play for 14.5 weeks, but they might not ever get it back again.

No matter how far this season spiraled, and no matter how bad things got, that element of the Broncos’ season will always be the most heart-wrenching and the toughest to swallow. The Denver Broncos have to start planning for life beyond Javonte Williams, when we thought he was certain to be a future face of the franchise merely nine months ago.

Melvin Gordon

The Melvin Gordon saga was one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2022 Denver Broncos, and Nathaniel Hackett’s tenure, which is amazing considering how frustrating those two overlapping chapters were.

In his age 29 season, Gordon finally fell off the running back cliff, as he became one of the most fumble-happy and least efficient running backs in the NFL. His 3.5 yards per carry is tied for the worst mark among players with at least 45 carries on the season, and he’s tied for second in fumbles among running backs, despite having less than half as many touches as the next-least-utilized back with at least five fumbles. As a result, his fumble rate of 4.34% is twice as bad as the next-worst back (Isiah Pacheco, 2.18%) with at least 100 touches on the season.

With that in mind, you could easily argue that makes Gordon the worst running back in football this season. No one with his sample size helped the team less, given his yards per carry, and no one with his sample size hurt the team more, given his fumbles.

Throw in his sideline tantrums that became an off-field distraction, and its hard to make a positive case for the 2022 version of Melvin Gordon. He will not be missed by the Mile High City.

Mike Boone

Outside of Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone likely had the most disappointing season of any Broncos running back.

Despite finally operating in an offense that was tailor-made for his strengths, and being thrust into a starring role, as Gordon struggled and Williams went down with an injury, Boone wound up being a non-factor for the most part.

An ankle injury suffered in Week 5, and another suffered in Week 12, ultimately prevented him from filling the void in the running back room, as did the fact that he was fairly ineffective when given his opportunities.

Boone finished the season with just 102 yards on 24 carries, 96 yards on 15 targets, and two pivotal drops that killed the Broncos’ attempt at a comeback early in the season.

Because of the lack of bodies at running back, and what he brings to special teams, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Denver re-signed Boone this offseason, but it’s more likely they let him walk in free agency.

Latavius Murray

What a find Latavius Murray wound up being.

With the Broncos stuck between a rock and a hard place following the Javonte Williams injury, they had to find a bruising back, and so they turned to the veteran Murray off the Saints’ practice squad, and were quickly rewarded for doing so.

Murray soon emerged as the depleted team’s best running back. Unlike Gordon, he was incredibly reliable, and offered a similar ability in pass protection, which was the only thing keeping Gordon on the roster.

His physical style immediately endeared himself to Broncos Country, and helped him notch the three most-productive rushing performances Denver saw all season. He also was immediatley embraced by the locker room, becoming a valued leader on the offensive side of the ball.

On paper, you see an aging practice-squad running back, and it’s hard to argue he should be brought back, but considering what he offered the Denver Broncos on and off the field this season, he should be re-signed as a camp body at the very least.

Chase Edmonds

One of the more complex running backs to discuss, as far as the Denver Broncos are concerned, is Chase Edmonds, and his current standing on the roster.

The Broncos need running back help, as only Javonte Williams, Chase Edmonds, and Tyler Badie are currently under contract for 2023, which makes the idea of cutting Edmonds unappealing. As does the fact that Edmonds looked like one of the roster’s best backs down the stretch of this season.

However, the fact the Miami Dolphins and run-game genius Mike McDaniel were feverishly looking to dump the Edmonds contract before it leaps from $1 million to $6 million against the cap, suggests it might be best to move off of him now.

The best solution is probably a middle ground, where the Broncos cut Edmonds, freeing up $6 million, and then look to bring him back on a new, cheaper deal. Whether Edmonds would be open to that is yet to be seen though of course.

Marlon Mack

Marlon Mack had a very limited role during his short stint with the Broncos, but during that limited and brief glimpse, he showed some promise that suggests his time in the NFL might not be done quite yet.

He took a 66-yard screen to the house to keep the Broncos in their first matchup with the Chiefs, and also toted the ball 16 times for 84 yards.

After tearing his ACL with the Colts, it was thought that Mack’s career was over. The fact he failed to even make the roster of the Houston Texans or San Francisco 49ers, two teams hungry for running back help, further cemented that belief.

His showing in Denver chiseled away at that notion though, and considering the Broncos’ desperation for running backs, Mack should get a look come training camp. Worst case, he’s a veteran camp body that everyone can get along with in the locker room, and can instill some wisdom onto any of the rookie running backs the Denver Broncos are sure to add.

Tyler Badie

Tyler Badie touched the ball just twice for the Denver Broncos and played just one week, but in those very limited opportunities, he made quite the impact.

The first touch of his career, a quick little flare pass from Russell Wilson, was taken 24 yards to the house. On that play, he displayed the contact balance and tantalizing burst that made him a coveted draft prospect.

After the game, Badie talked expressed his desire to stick around with the Broncos and how he’s excited to contribute on special teams and do whatever was necessary in order to get onto the field.

Badie was a back often highlighted as a sensible fit for the Broncos’ pre-draft, as his traits suggested he could be a great insurance plan for Williams. Now that the Denver Broncos really need an insurance plan for Williams, it’s a good thing they’ve got Badie around.

Devine Ozigbo

The Broncos were forced to turn to Devine Ozigbo out of necessity, and that will likely be the end of his Denver Broncos career.

With Williams injured and Gordon’s status an utter mess, the Broncos needed to find some outside backs, and Devine Ozigbo was a good practice squad option. Unfortunately, as the running back situation continued to deteriorate, Denver became more and more desperate, and eventually activated Devine Ozigbo for a four-game stretch, during which, Ozigbo touched the ball four times and gained seven yards.

It’s hard to be overly critical of Ozigbo’s performance, but after seeing what he brought to the Broncos, it’s also easy to understand how he’s a back-end, practice squad running back.

Damarea Crockett

We end our story the same we started it — with a devastatingly sad knee injury.

Damarea Crockett was in the midst of his best camp in orange and blue. He looked perfect for Hackett’s new system and was arguably the team’s best off-season running back, which is amazing considering the circumstances. Crockett opened camp buried behind Williams, Gordon and Boone, all of whom were penciled into clear roles, and yet, Crockett was making a strong argument to get some 53-man roster looks.

But then, Crockett tore his ACL in camp, and his season was over.

It’s hard to know where Crockett goes from here, but the fact the Broncos carried him on injured reserve all season is a promising sign for him. Denver is desperate for running backs, and will need to add a lot of bodies at the position to their training camp roster. Why not get another look at Crockett?


The Denver Broncos are beyond desperate for running back help, and as a result, should leave no stone unturned.

Outside of Melvin Gordon, whose character hiccups and fumble-itis make him more harmful than helpful, it’s hard to make a case against the Broncos bringing back any of these backs, as they could use all of them.

Nonetheless, although nearly all these backs deserve a chance to shine at training camp, the Broncos will need to inject some talent into the room, just in case Williams doesn’t return to form.

This could be in the form of a high draft pick, as Denver’s two early third-rounders and late first-rounder put them in perfect position to draft one of the draft’s top running backs.

It could also take the form of a veteran addition, as Saquon Barkley, first-team All-Pro Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, Damien Harris and Jamaal Williams are all set to be free agents this offseason. Some of those vets might not excite you, but all look the part of competent, starting-caliber running backs, and that’s what the Broncos need right now.

Expect plenty of moves at the running back position this offseason.