ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With Javonte Williams injured and Melvin Gordon III fumbling, Broncos' general manager George Paton moved quickly to acquire a top veteran running back Monday by signing Latavius Murray away from the New Orleans Saints' practice squad.
Murray was elevated to the Saints' game-day roster for their game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in London and he gained 57 yards with a touchdown on 11 carries. It was the 50th regular-season touchdown of his career.
So he's ready -- even if it may be unrealistic for him to play in the Broncos' next game Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts. Besides, playbook reasons, it may not be wise to have a 32-year-old running back play Sunday in London followed by a game 4 days later in altitude. The Broncos do have a plan in place, however, to get Murray up to speed quickly.
"The standpoint of bringing in a running back, anytime you bring somebody in, it's always hard to get them caught up with everything,'' Hackett said. "We have a nice little learning platform for guys, because this is what happens in the league. No matter what happens, you're going to have some injuries. Guys are going to come in, they're going to help you right away and so we have a nice little, like I said, a learning platform, interactive stuff that we've put together so that they can start learning the system like it was day one.”
Even if Murray doesn't play Thursday, he addresses other issues at the Broncos' running back position going forward. After Gordon, who has a history of fumbling problems, fumbled twice in the Broncos' 11-10 win last week against San Francisco, head coach Nathaniel Hackett was planning to use the veteran sparingly in the Broncos' game Sunday at Las Vegas.
Gordon didn't get his first carry until about 4 minutes left in the first half -- and he fumbled it away with cornerback Amik Robertson recovering and returning 68 yards for a touchdown. It was a minimum 10-point swing (the Broncos were in field goal range at the spot Gordon fumbled) and the Raiders won by 9, 32-23.
Williams then suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury on the first play of the second half. Mike Boone came in and immediately rushed for 13 yards but he is a smaller, change-of-pace back who might have a difficult type holding up long-term to the No. 1-type workload. For the game Thursday against the Colts, the Broncos may call up Devine Ozigbo, a four-year veteran, from their practice squad, then break out Murray for the following game Monday night at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Murray is a 9-year running back who has enjoyed 1,000-yard success -- in 2015 with the Oakland Raiders -- before settling into a 1B/No. 2 role with four teams.
Paton was the Vikings' assistant GM in 2017-18 when he helped sign the free-agent Murray to a three-year contract. Murray was initially a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Florida by the Raiders in 2014. He has been a steadily consistent, if unspectacular NFL running back every season in his career.
A year-by-year look at his career:
- Year ... Team ... Rush Yds ... TD
- 2014 ... OAK ...... 424 ........ 2
- 2015 ... OAK ... 1,066 ........ 6
- 2016 ... OAK ...... 788 ....... 12
- 2017 ... MIN ....... 842 ........ 8
- 2018 ... MIN ....... 578 ........ 6
- 2019 ... NO ........ 637 ........ 5
- 2020 ... NO ........ 656 ........ 4
- 2021 ... BAL ...... 501 ........ 6
- 2022 .... NO ........ 57 ........ 1
- Totals .............. 5,549 ....... 50
All practice squads elevated to game-day rosters are automatically reverted back to the practice squad the next day. In Murray's case that essentially made him a free agent as practice squad players are free to sign with any team that offers a 53-man active roster spot.
With the Saints, Murray was behind Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara. Murray no doubt saw a greater opportunity to become the lead back with the Broncos.
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