As a preseason standout and one of four undrafted free agents to make the Broncos' initial 53-man roster in August, running back Jaleel McLaughlin entered the regular season looking to contribute immediately to a talented Denver offense. McLaughlin got in a groove in early October, recording more than 85 scrimmage yards in back-to-back games against the Bears and Jets in Weeks 4 and 5, but it's his play in the final weeks that has the Broncos most excited for his future.
Across the Broncos' past two games, McLaughlin has rushed 14 times for 81 yards — a 5.8 yards-per-carry average — and added seven catches for 48 yards. He's also recorded both a rush and a reception of 10 yards or more in those two games.
"That's what I want to do," McLaughlin said after the Broncos' 16-9 win over the Chargers. "[I want] to help the team, contribute in a great way and keep on working hard to do that."
McLaughlin tallied double-digit touches against the Chargers and Patriots, his first time reaching that total since Week 5. Head Coach Sean Payton said Monday that McLaughlin has earned more touches and continues to change the Broncos' vision for his role.
"Our vision continues to grow a little bit because he continues to earn additional touches," Payton said. "… Periodically, he'll come up, and he wants to expand his role as a receiver in that, if you will, 'Joker' category. He's certainly eager. … You don't see him take hard hits. He's very sudden, and he's earned those touches."
Heading into the Broncos' regular-season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders, McLaughlin has already established himself as a crucial playmaker in Denver's offense. The Youngstown State product leads the Broncos in yards per carry with a 5.6 average, has a team-high four rushes of more than 20 yards and ranks fifth in receptions.
McLaughlin said after the Broncos' win that he's "got a lot more growing to do," but he is using team success as his motivator, both in Week 18 and in the offseason ahead.
"We're coming out next week to win," McLaughlin said. "That [doesn't] change. We're going to keep working and work in the offseason … so that we can get into the playoffs."