ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Running backs Samaje Perine and Javonte Williams have done plenty to entertain and excite Broncos fans during the first two days of training camp.
Denver faithful are well-acquainted with the work of Williams, who rushed for 903 yards and four touchdowns in 2021 and has successfully returned from a season-ending knee injury. Broncos fans cheered loudly on Friday and Saturday when Williams handled carries and took off downfield in 11-on-11 settings.
Perine, a seven-year veteran who signed with Denver in March after spending time with Washington, Miami and Cincinnati, impressed spectators on Saturday by finding open space along the sideline and securing a deep pass from quarterback Russell Wilson.
The two backs share physical running styles, playmaking ability and an eagerness to work with Head Coach Sean Payton, who has a track record of success in utilizing multiple options in the backfield. Payton himself expressed his commitment to the run game after Saturday's practice.
"That's going to be important to what we do as long as I'm here," Payton said of his dedication to running the ball. "I just think it's that important to winning in our league."
Perine said Payton's usage of running backs in his system and the potential for more reps were the deciding factors in his decision to come to Denver.
He carved out a valuable complementary role with the Bengals in 2022, reaching career-highs with six total touchdowns and 38 receptions for 287 yards. Perine saw an opportunity to continue to flourish by working with Payton and partnering in the backfield with Williams.
"It's just the history of Sean Payton's offense and seeing how they use multiple backs," Perine said. "I'm never going to complain about my time in Cincinnati, but I feel like it was good for me to get a change of scenery and hopefully get a [few] more reps on offense."
Williams has been cleared for contact after his diligent work in rehab helped him accelerate his recovery timeline. He is also thrilled with his fit in Payton's system and said that he's taken notes on his head coach's work with top running backs such as Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
"I probably watched every game from Alvin Kamara's rookie year up to now," Williams said after Thursday's training camp acclimation practice.
While the high-impact roles have appealed to the running backs themselves, Payton also sees establishing the run and involving the running backs as methods to unlock the best performances out of the entire offense.
"I think it's got to be part of our DNA," Payton said. "We felt that way in New Orleans as well. The two greatest allies for good quarterback play are the running game and good defense. I think it's a tough position to play if you're not running the ball well, and then obviously it becomes tougher if you're not stuffing it."
Perine agreed with the assessment and gave his outlook on what the Broncos' backfield can do this year.
"[It's] very important," Perine said of the run game. "We're two very hard runners, and it's going to be a fun year."