Melvin Gordon saw the writing on the wall near the end of last season.
Gordon, a veteran with two Pro Bowl appearances to his name, was one half of an evenly split backfield. The other half of that duo, Javonte Williams, was the future.
Still, Gordon returned to Denver on a one-year deal in late April. And he’s not about to give up his share of the backfield workload just because he turns 30 in less than a year.
Gordon spoke with reporters Monday and explained he understands most everyone expects him “to take a back seat,” via The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider, but he said he told Broncos general manager George Paton, “I’m not going to lay down” in a training camp — or in-season, for that matter — competition for carries.
In truth, there wasn’t a lead back job in Denver last season, at least not statistically. Gordon was listed at the top of the depth chart, but he and Williams each finished with 203 carries. Their production was similar, too, though Gordon got the edge by 15 yards and twice as many rushing touchdowns (eight) to Williams’ scoring trips (four).
That will likely change in 2022. Nathaniel Hackett is now in charge, and though he comes from a Packers team that essentially mirrored Denver in how it distributed its carries, Williams is the player Denver will want to get a larger workload. The second-year back is already a fan favorite because of his performance and should benefit playing in an offense featuring Russell Wilson and a cast of talented, capable playmakers.
Gordon returned because Denver still sees a role for him. He just might have to fight for a larger one in 2022 if he wants to resist Father Time’s influence on a team’s depth chart.