ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Ailing running back Melvin Gordon III was unable to practice Saturday and was ruled out for the Denver Broncos’ Sunday night showdown at Kansas City with the AFC West lead on the line.
That means rookie running back Javonte Williams will get his first career start when the Broncos (6-5) face the Chiefs (7-4) with a chance to move atop the division.
Gordon, the Broncos’ leading touchdown scorer, is dealing with shoulder and hip injuries that prevented him from practicing all week.
Coach Vic Fangio said during the week that if Gordon couldn’t play, Williams would get the bulk of the carries against the Chiefs with veteran running back Mike Boone also in the mix.
On Saturday, the Broncos promoted running back Damarea Crockett from their practice squad and waived wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland.
Crockett is a first-year pro from Missouri who has bounced between Denver’s practice and active roster. He has appeared in eight games with the Broncos this season, totaling 130 snaps on special teams.
Gordon has five TD runs and two TD catches this season to go with 605 rushing yards and 166 receiving yards.
Williams, a second-round pick out of North Carolina, has rushed for 568 yards and two touchdowns on 117 carries with 27 receptions for 193 yards and a TD.
Williams led the nation in missed tackles last season and the 42 missed tackles he’s forced his rookie year are second in the NFL to Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos are trying to snap an 11-game skid against the Chiefs, who are seeking their sixth consecutive AFC West title.
The Chiefs will be without starting cornerback Rashad Fenton and right tackle Lucas Niang against the Broncos, raising the possibility former All-Pro lineman Kyle Long could play for the first time in two years.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Friday that Fenton, the NFL’s top-rated cornerback according to some grading services, would miss the game with a knee injury he incurred two weeks ago against Dallas. Niang has been dealing with a rib injury.
Long spent last season in retirement then returned this spring, only to fracture a bone in his knee during a workout in June.