Heading into the offseason, new Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton made it very clear that in order for Denver's offense to score more points and gain steam to become a championship-caliber team, they would need to adopt a brand new offensive identity and philosophy from what was being run schematically in previous years under different regimes. That new identity became very evident throughout the free agency and draft process after the Broncos acquired talented run blockers such as G Ben Powers, RT Mike McGlinchey, and TEs Chris Manhertz, Nate Adkins, and Adam Trautman.
Why bring in so many expensive run blockers? To give your top two running backs the best chance at success. Running the football has always been the key to winning games at the highest level and making legitimate runs at championships. A bad run game will always catch up to an elite quarterback...unless you're Patrick Mahomes. It was something the New Orleans Saints always did very effectively under Sean Payton during his 16-year tenure coaching the team. Just take Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram for example.
In his first season coaching the Broncos, Payton has already established a well-thought-out plan as to how the run game will be utilized to its advantage while simultaneously benefiting the quarterback. A good run game is always good to have but a great run game is what can separate "pretenders" from contenders. And it is not a reach at all to say that the backfield that features both Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine at the running back position has the potential to push the Broncos to contention in just their first season together as a duo.
In the regular season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, Williams and Perine combined for a total of 93 yards on the ground with 21 carries between the both of each which stood at an average of 4.43 yards per carry. The encouraging sign was even after coming off a multi-ligament tear of his ACL, Javonte Williams received 13 carries (five more than Perine) in just his first game back. However, for Perine, his Broncos debut was very impressive.
The 27-year-old RB averaged north of five yards per carry and also led the team in receiving yards with 37 and four receptions. Williams had also reeled in four catches but totaled just five yards through the air. Both are extremely positive signs for the usage of the top two running backs on Denver's depth chart as their involvement in the offense is only expected to increase as the season progresses. Both running backs were excellent in their pass protection throughout the game and seemed to be very confident in their ability to run through tackles and shed off defenders. It was certainly an impressive start for No. 33 and No. 25 as a duo in 2023.
It would also not be a reach to claim that this running back duo can be the best the Denver Broncos have had in a very long time. As many may know, arguably one of the best running back tandems in franchise history consisted of Floyd Little and Bobby Anderson from 1970-1973. Little had produced 4,851 rushing yards during that time frame (1,212-yard average per season) while Anderson had rushed for 1,218 yards (305-yard average per season). This stat total is a very good comparison as to how the careers could shape out to be between Williams and Perine in Denver, assuming Perine earns a second contract with the team. Perine has always been around that 300 rushing yard mark per season as a backup running back and Williams most definitely has the potential to reach 1,200 rushing yards on average per season.
As long as their blockers remain healthy and Sean Payton proceeds with his vision for Williams and Perine in a featured backfield, the sky is the limit for both young, talented running backs. They were off to a respectable start in the regular season opener and are only going to get better as the season goes on. Denver's new promising backfield will not be slowing down any time soon and could be the root of a very successful offense for years to come.