And while Gordon was away, it allowed the rookie Javonte Williams to play. And free sign Mike Boone to play. And Royce Freeman to play. A lot. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the offense got “almost half a season worth of reps” during the team’s organized team activities and minicamp. Gordon missed most of them.
How much Gordon lost – carrier, playing time, his role – is still to be seen, but when Gordon took part in last week’s obligatory minicamp, he saw a far different landscape on the depth map than when he left last season.
“I’m very confident, man,” Gordon said. “… I just have to get out there and just do my job and compete. No matter where the cards fall, they fall. I can not really worry about it too much. I know it’s such a talk. The media makes it Javonte versus Melvin. Who’s starting? This and that. It’s not really about that. “
Well, that may be about it. The Broncos hired general manager George Paton in January, just a few weeks after Gordon ended a somewhat choppy season that had included a DUI arrest during a pandemic, a team-leading four lost fumbles to go with a team-leading 986-yard rushing and nine rushing touchdowns for the league’s 28th scoring offense.
Paton then made Boone the team’s first free agent to sign the offense and use a second round on Williams out of North Carolina. Williams was consistently ranked by evaluators around the league as one of the top two or three running back in the draft, and Paton traded up in the second round to acquire him.
Williams is a finisher as a runner – Paton called him “probably the most physical runner in the last few years” – has shown the ability to contribute in the passing game and is a willing blocker in blitz pick-ups. Throw in Boone, who Paton knows from his time with the Vikings, and the math becomes interesting for Gordon.
“Well, I think there’s enough work to get for everyone if everyone shows they’re worthy,” is how Broncos coach Vic Fangio answered the question about the workload for the back. “I think you’ll have to throw Mike Boone in there when you talk about that position too … We’re rolling out a role for them. Of course Melvin is an established back in this league, played well for us last year “And we like him. We obviously like Williams and we like Boone. So you never have enough back and I’m convinced there will be enough work for them all.”
Work, yes. But maybe not the kind of work that Gordon, who signed a two-year $ 16 million deal in 2020, had last season. Phillip Lindsay was supposed to be part of the proverbial 1-2 battle with Gordon last season.
But Lindsay, who underwent wrist surgery after each of his first two seasons before battling knee and hip injuries as well as concussions, missed five games and had six games with nine or fewer wearers last season. So Gordon, who missed the game immediately after his arrest in October (he eventually pleaded guilty to reckless driving and excessive speed), stepped into the primary backing role and stayed there.
Lindsay is now out of the picture. His bid as a limited free agent – the lowest on first refusal – was lifted this offseason, and he eventually signed with Houston Texans.
Paton has said he sees the potential for Boone to play a bigger role in the Broncos’ offense than he played behind Dalvin Cook with the Vikings. Boone and Williams together count approx. $ 3.4 million against the team’s salary cap in 2021, while Gordon counts $ 8.94 million.
Since Gordon did not participate in the Broncos ‘OTAs or other parts of the volunteer part of the Broncos’ offseason program, Williams and Boone were routinely the first two backs through the drills. For his part, however, Gordon was undefeated the day before the Broncos were put offseason.
“We’re competing, but it’s early and we still have a lot of work to do,” Gordon said. “I think both have really good feet and good hands. I think they will be – we could all be special. We will definitely come out here and compete … You can tell Boone has been in the league for a while. “and you can tell that Javonte has potential. We’re going to grow as a team and we look to be the best relegation group in the league.”