By R.L. Bynum
When Javonte Williams got the ball, he took advantage of it with 108 total yards in Denver’s 17–16 loss Monday night in Seattle.
But did the Broncos’ coaching staff notice?
Failing to give the ball enough to Williams, who had 43 rushing yards and 65 reception yards Monday, may have contributed to getting one Denver Broncos head coach fired after their fans grumbled about his usage.
After Williams split carries last season with starter Melvin Gordon III under previous coach Vic Fangio, first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett started Williams in his first game leading Denver.
Although Hackett gave Williams more touches than Gordon in the opener (18 to 14) and Williams played more snaps (38 to 27), the fan grumbling about how much the second-year pro from UNC is used probably hasn’t stopped. Even though Williams had a better yards-per-carry average in the game (6.1 to 4.8), Gordon got more carries (12 to 7) and Gordon ran for 58 yards.
Williams carried the ball twice in the second half. In the first half, the Broncos had five first downs on eight Williams plays and one first down on six Gordon plays. Gordon seemed to get more third-down snaps.
Williams got more passing targets (10 to 2) and took advantage with nine catches for 60 yards, while Gordon had two catches for 14. Williams’ totals of targets and catches were both career-highs.
Williams’ four targets on third down or later were tied for the most in Week 1 with Miami’s Chase Edmonds. His eight targets in the second half led all running backs in Week 1 (former UNC teammate Michael Carter of the New York Jets had five).
On a fourth-and-goal at the Seattle 1 early in the third quarter with Denver trailing by four, it was the obvious call to give Williams the ball. On the ManningCast on ESPN2, Peyton Manning said, “Give it to Williams.” Instead, the ball went to Gordon; he fumbled before the goal line and didn’t score.
Unfortunately for Williams, when he did get the ball near the goal line on the next drive, Seahawks linebacker Uchenna Nwosu knocked the ball out of his hands to force a fumble.
On the play, Williams first ran into Denver guard Graham Glasgow. Glasgow said it was a pass play changed to run. Glasgow didn’t hear the audible and he set up for a pass block. Williams tried to find running space but Nwosu stripped the ball away from him.
“We have to finish drives,” Williams said.
Even former Broncos star Shannon Sharpe, later on the ManningCast, said that Williams should be playing unless he’s tired and that the Broncos shouldn’t alternate between him and Gordon.
Gordon again was called on during the first few plays of Denver’s final drive before Williams had a couple of good gains on receptions.
Williams broke a tackle and battled for nine yards to set up the late field-goal attempt.
“He knew where we had to get,” Hackett said.
Maybe all that changes against Houston in Denver’s home opener on Sunday?