ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Broncos rookie running back Javonte Williams impressed Denver star Von Miller long before he dragged Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey for a whopping 20 yards during his 31-yard romp against the Ravens.
“Man, the guy is so incredible when it comes to breaking tackles,” Miller said Thursday. “I just wanted to test it out one day. I tried to trip him in the hallway. And he just like kind of rolled off of it and kept going.”
Just like he’s done to every opponent so far.
According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has a league-leading 37% broken tackle rate, which isn’t surprising considering he led the nation in broken tackles last year at North Carolina before the Broncos chose him 35th overall in the NFL draft.
“He just has like a sixth sense when it comes to breaking tackles,” marveled Miller. “He’s just incredible. His center of balance is incredible. I’ve never seen a play like that. I’ve never seen a guy break tackles for 40 yards straight and then almost tumble into the end zone.”
On first-and-10 from the Baltimore 40-yard line, Williams took the handoff from Teddy Bridgewater and headed to the gap on the right side, but cornerback Tavon Young slipped wide receiver Courtland Sutton’s block and met Williams at the line of scrimmage. Williams spun away and sliced through the left side of the line instead.
“Man, it’s crazy. On that play, I blocked the first guy that hit him. I was blocking that guy. He hit him and he bounced off. I was like, ‘Dang. Shucks. That’s on me and I’m in the way,’ ” Sutton said.
“Then I look, and boom, he hit another one. I’m peeking over and I’m jogging over, and boom, he hit another. This dude is not going down!”
Williams knocked over three defenders, who scattered like bowling pins at the 32, and Humphrey engaged him at the 30-yard line.
“He just jumped on my back,” Williams said, “and I just kept going.”
“He’s a tough tackle, and he’s going to have a bright future,” Ravens run stuffer Calais Campbell said. “I liked him when he was in college — I’m a big football fan, so I watch a lot of that stuff, and I knew he was going to be a pretty good player just by the tenacity that he runs with.”
At the 25-yard line, cornerback Anthony Averett joined the fray and Williams dragged both cornerbacks until receiver Tim Patrick knocked Averett off at the 18. Williams crossed the 15-yard line with Humphrey still hanging on.
JAVONTE WILLIAMS 💪
— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2021
As Williams was crossing the 10, Humphrey lost his footing but held on and tripped Williams just as hard-charging linebacker Odafe Oweh helped bring down the runner at the 9.
“He’s a hard runner. He means business,” Miller said. “You know, for the longest (time), I thought that he didn’t like me because when he first got here he stepped on my foot and I just looked at him like, ‘Bro, what’s going on?’ He kind of gave me this look, and I’m like, oh, this rookie’s different right here. This rookie means business.
“I’m so happy that he’s on our team and I’m not out there trying to tackle him.”
Miller isn’t the only teammate who’s been blown away by Williams, who leads all NFL rookies with 186 rushing yards. Last month, Bridgewater paid him the ultimate compliment.
“I don’t want to make it seem like I’m reaching or anything, but he possesses some of those qualities that you see in Alvin Kamara,” suggested Bridgewater, who backed up Drew Brees in New Orleans from 2018-19.
Fellow rookie Caden Sterns, a safety who’s also made the most of his limited opportunities, said he wasn’t surprised by Williams’ big rumble Sunday “but I am still wowed at the fact he dragged a dude 17 yards. That’s crazy.”
Amen, said Denver defensive end Shelby Harris.
“When the whole team is trying to take you down and you go 30 yards on them, that’s something special,” Harris said. “Hopefully we’ll get more of that.”
And, there’s the rub.
Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has taken some heat from the outside for not running the ball more in Denver’s 23-7 loss to the Ravens despite Williams (48 yards on seven runs) and Melvin Gordon II (56 yards on nine carries) averaging 6.5 yards a pop.
The Broncos ran just four times in the second half after backup Drew Lock replaced Bridgewater, who was concussed on his final play before halftime.
On Thursday, a glum Shurmur said the running backs’ touches were limited because the Broncos couldn’t stay on the field with their passing game having an off day.
“I’ve said it all along, I believe in running the football,” Shurmur insisted. “We have running backs that deserve to get their touches.”
Williams was also underused in the passing game. He was wide open over the middle when Lock was picked off in the end zone with 3 seconds left when he tried to force the ball to Sutton, who was surrounded by three defenders.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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