Week 18 marks emotional return for Broncos RB Javonte Williams

What is significant about RB Javonte Williams playing Sunday in Allegiant Stadium?

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams will be returning to Allegiant Stadium on Sunday evening to play his first game in Las Vegas since tearing his ACL in Week 4 of the 2022 season. The third-year back has struggled to produce on the ground in recent weeks but is in a perfect position to bounce back against a Raiders run defense that ranks 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and 19th in yards per rushing attempt allowed.

After suffering his knee injury in 2022 that ended his season, Williams successfully completed one of the most impressive comebacks from an injury in recent memory in all of sports. The 23-year-old running back returned to practice in the offseason just seven months after his ACL surgery. The average recovery time from an ACL injury is between eight and nine months. Not to mention, Williams not only tore his ACL, but also his PCL and LCL.

Despite not producing the most exciting numbers recently, his recovery undoubtedly goes down as one of the greatest of all time. As for his play on the field, there are a lot of factors that play into the situation. Denver's run blocking up front has certainly not been the prettiest in recent weeks and looks much worse than during the team's five-game winning streak. While rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin has managed to string together impressive performances during the month of December, Williams is simply just not as quick and agile as McLaughlin.

In December of 2023, Williams rushed for just 204 yards on three yards per attempt to pair with two touchdowns on the ground. It seems, at times, Denver's run game is very predictable, especially with Williams in the formation, which leads to defenders stacking the box more often and appearing in the backfield sooner than anticipated. When Denver substitutes wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey into the formation and substitutes wide receiver Jerry Jeudy out of the lineup, nine times out of ten the Broncos are going to run the ball.

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If head coach Sean Payton wants to establish a strong and effective run game this week, he'll have to get more creative against a Raiders defense that has been on a tear over the last nine weeks. Williams, who is in a slump, is not completely excused, however. According to Next Gen Stats, his average yards after contact (1.6) and rushing efficiency (4.49) are some of the worst in the NFL. Williams is due for a bounce back and will have a little added motivation entering the season finale knowing the scrutiny he has been under and also how far he has come since injuring his knee in Allegiant Stadium 14 months ago.

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