Running back Javonte Williams made his regular season debut for the Denver Broncos in Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders and put together a solid outing. Williams’ performance in the opener gave ESPN the confidence to name him the Broncos bounce-back candidate for the 2023 campaign.
Williams’ recovery from a devasting injury was one of the brightest spots of Denver’s offseason said ESPN reporter Jeff Legwold on September 15, writing:
“(Williams) played 28 snaps without a brace on the surgically repaired knee in the Broncos’ Week 1 loss to the Raiders. The Broncos will monitor his workload but are more than pleased with how things are going with Williams, who ran for 903 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. Williams and Samaje Perine are expected to handle the bulk of the duties in the run game moving forward.”
In those 28 snaps in Week 1, Williams amassed solid production on the ground and through the air. The third-year back totaled 17 touches against the Raiders. Williams carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards while having four receptions for five yards.
Despite not having a productive afternoon in the passing game, the North Carolina product led the Broncos with six targets.
The season opener marked what could be considered a full-circle moment for Williams. In a Week 4 loss to these same Raiders during the 2022 season, Williams tore several ligaments in his right knee, prematurely ending his sophomore campaign.
Significant Opportunities Ahead for Williams in Week 2
Williams seems to understand the importance of the Week 2 matchup against the Washington Commanders as Denver tries to avoid an 0-2 start to 2023.
Williams played well in his first regular season action since October 2022. He played like his old self and his production will only boost Denver just as a top playmaker returns to the field.
Jeudy will elevate the passing game for QB Russell Wilson while Williams takes the pressure off in the run game. Wilson saw a healthy and confident Williams in the backfield in Week 1, which means everything to the offense moving forward.
“Just the feat of being able to overcome an injury like he had in terms of ACL injury and then to be able to overcome that and to be in tip-top shape the way he is — his mentality, the way he brought it all day. Everybody felt his presence today, which is a really good thing. It’s a good thing for our football team that we have him,” Wilson said to reporters on September 10.
Williams Preparing for Reunion With College Teammates
Denver selected Williams with the 35th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams was viewed as a first-round talent before the Broncos selected him early in the second.
The Broncos drafted a crucial piece of the offense due to his powerful running style. Ahead of Denver’s Week 2 matchup with the Commanders, Williams reflected on his time at North Carolina.
Two of Williams’ former UNC teammates play for Washington: starting quarterback Sam Howell and wide receiver Dyami Brown. The running back was especially complimentary of Howell and how he’s carried himself in the NFL this early in his career.
“Just his ability to be coachable and how well he [gets along] with people in the locker room,” Williams said to John Riker of the Broncos official team website. “You could put him anywhere, and he’s going to make a friend.”
During their final season together in 2020, UNC went 8-4 as Howell threw 30 touchdowns while Williams ran for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, Williams won’t be rooting for Howell much on September 17.
“I’ll wish him the best on Sunday, but hopefully he [doesn’t] do too good,” said Williams.