Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams tore his ACL during Week 4 of last season, prematurely ending what could’ve been a sophomore campaign. After several months of rehab, the young tailback is healthy heading into the 2023 season, but new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi indicated that Williams could have a limited role right out the gate. With the team signing veteran Samaje Perine in the offseason, it begs the question of how many snaps will the two receive at the start of the season.
Lombardi spent the last two seasons as the OC of their AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers and one could look at their running back use in Week 1 of last year to get an idea of how Williams and Perine will be used at the start of this year. Facing the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2022 opener, star running back Austin Ekeler was used in just 49.3% of the offensive snaps, registering 14 carries and four receptions in the win. Behind him, backup Joshua Kelley clocked 26.9% of the offensive snaps, finishing the game with four carries and four two receptions. While Ekeler would continue to clock around 12-14 carries per game, his usage immediately shot up and was consistently accumulating over 60% of snaps in game by the middle of the season. Meanwhile, Kelley maintained a semi-consistent presence within the offense when he was healthy and even received 10 carries on two separate occasions.
Taking that into account, I’d expect a similar trajectory for Williams and Perine heading into the 2023 season. Williams will most likely top out at 10 carries for the first few weeks with Perine coming for third down and red zone snaps. Week 4 against the Chicago Bears is where you’d most likely see the former return to form as the workhorse back for the Broncos while Perine will see the number of his touches start to shrink. It should be noted that Perine had a career year as a pass-catcher with the Bengals last season, hauling in 38 targets for 287 yards and four touchdowns. He should continue to get his looks out of the backfield even as Williams takes a bulk of the carries on the ground.