Broncos seeing surprising breakout from running back Latavius Murray

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Latavius Murray has only had a locker inside the Denver Broncos’ complex since Oct. 4, when the injury-ravaged Broncos signed him off the New Orleans’ Saints practice squad.

Yet Murray already finds himself on the team's shortlist of reliable weapons.

“His consistency is what I really admire with him, Murray is one of my favorite guys to play with," quarterback Russell Wilson said.

Murray, 32, has been the life preserver of the Broncos’ run game and is headed to his best rushing season since 2017.

He is also poised to finish with one of the best seasons any running back over age 30 has had in Broncos history. It's quite the journey in a short span. Murray played for the Saints Week 4 in London on Oct. 2, formally signed with the Broncos two days later and played in his first game for the Broncos Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

He rushed for 66 yards in that game against Los Angeles and has played every week since, including again in London when the Broncos played the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8.

This past Sunday, Murray had 24 carries for 130 yards to go with a touchdown in the Broncos’ win over the Arizona Cardinals. His 130 yards rushing against the Cardinals were Murray’s highest total in a game since 2018 and the fourth-highest single-game total of his career.

Murray said it was the first time in his 10-year career he had been given a game ball in the locker room.

“I don’t even know if you can put that into words,’’ Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said this week when asked about Murray’s impact. “We got him from London, he had just come from London, then we have to take him back to London. I thought he was going to be a little bit ornery about it and he was fired up … he doesn’t care where he’s playing with, who he’s playing with … He took [Sunday’s] game over.’’

Murray has rushed for 510 yards with the Broncos this season -- to go with 57 yards on 11 carries in his stint with the Saints. He's on pace to finish with 680 yards rushing on the season. That would be the fifth-highest total for a running back who started a season over 30 years old with the Broncos.

Mike Anderson tops the list (1,014 in 2005). Willis McGahee (731 yards in 2012), Hall of Famer Floyd Little (979 in 1973) and Tony Dorsett (703 in 1988) are the top four.

“When you come into this league and you are young, 21, 22, whatever it is, you’re not sure, you’re not sure how to approach the game,’’ Murray said. “You have to learn how to approach the offseason. You have to learn how to continue to get better. For me, mentally, I know the things that I need to do in the offseason and I know the things that I need to do during the season.''

And in a season when the Broncos have led the NFL for much of the football year in both players on injured reserve as well as salary cap dollars allotted for players on injured reserve, Murray has been a surprising solution to one of the Broncos’ biggest problems.

Javonte Williams was, after all, going to be the hub of the Broncos’ rushing attack, a tackle-breaking, clock-eating, tone-setting first option. But Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Broncos’ Week 4 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mike Boone has been on injured reserve twice, including now for the remainder of the season, with an ankle injury and Melvin Gordon III was released in Week 11, after his fifth fumble, two of those at the opponent’s 2-yard or closer.

Murray has simply, methodically, given the Broncos someone to lean on despite all of that.

“We weren’t sure we were going to be able to feed him every game the rest of the season, 25 carries, but he’s definitely earned it. He looks fresh, excited and wants the ball,’’ Hackett said.