News broke yesterday that the Denver Broncos would be placing star running back Phillip Lindsay on Injured Reserve, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. It’s a tough loss for an already severely depleted Broncos team, but Denver should be able to move around it and hopefully win the next two games. Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman, and LeVante Bellamy will all take the touches vacated by Lindsay. Already eliminated from the playoffs, losing Lindsay doesn’t really change anything, but it does bring up a bigger question. Do you re-sign Phillip Lindsay to a long-term deal when his current contract expires at the end of this season?
Phillip Lindsay is known by many as the “Colorado Kid” due to his many ties to the state (he was born in Denver and went to college at the University of Colorado, after which he signed with the Broncos as a UDFA, where he has since spent all three seasons of his NFL career). Lindsay had rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons but, after a season plagued by injuries and with his share of the offense greatly reduced after the Broncos brought in Melvin Gordon, he will not hit that mark again this year. Lindsay’s main strengths as a runner are his speed, agility, quickness, and explosiveness, and he lacks strength, power, and the ability to run after contact and break tackles. The Colorado Kid has potential and has shown that he can be an effective runner in the NFL, but is it a good decision to keep him?
Why should Denver keep Lindsay? What are the benefits of doing so?
Keeping Lindsay would be beneficial for the Broncos in many ways. This season, he topped 75 rushing yards four times. He only has 1 rushing touchdown, but his injury plays a big role in that. Lindsay and Melvin Gordon are a great 1-2 punch, and their skill sets greatly complement each other. Gordon is a bigger, more physical runner who is able to power through contact on early downs and in short-yardage situations, while Lindsay is a great pass catcher who excels on 3rd downs. Lindsay has stated that he wants to stay in his hometown, and at 26 years old, he has quite a few years left of good production in him. But, keeping him would not come without risks.
Why should Denver part ways with Lindsay? What are the benefits of doing so?
To understand why Denver would benefit from parting ways with Lindsay, we must look further at his weaknesses. As mentioned before, Lindsay lacks strength and power. Defenders are easily able to tackle him, he’s very small and can’t handle a large workload, and we have seen that durability is an issue for him. Pat Shurmur can be blamed for not giving him more carries, but when he has gotten the ball this season, he has not been all that effective. What happened to the effectiveness we saw in 2018 and 2019? There are many factors to Lindsay’s regression. The first and most notable would be the team’s acquisition of Melvin Gordon. As mentioned before, Lindsay has only two games this year with 15 or more carries. Compare that to Gordon’s six games with 15 or more carries and you can clearly see who’s getting the ball more. Another issue for Lindsay this year is that he has constantly been hampered by injuries. Ever since the Week 1 contest against the Tennessee Titans, Lindsay has not been fully healthy. He was finally placed on IR earlier this week due to both a knee injury and hip injury, ending his season. At the beginning of the season, he was also dealing with a toe injury. Lindsay chose to stick it out and try to play through injuries which just is not a recipe for effective production. Lastly, Pat Shurmur, the Broncos offensive coordinator, could be blamed for Lindsay’s poor production. A running back cannot produce without the ball in his hands. Shurmur has been making QB Drew Lock throw a lot (which I mentioned in my previous Drew Lock article). This is mainly due to game script; the Broncos have been playing from behind in many of their games. If the run/pass numbers were more even, Lindsay would greatly benefit. Lindsay’s departure would undoubtedly leave a hole to be replaced in the Broncos offense.
Who would replace Lindsay? What options do the Broncos have?
These days, it’s not all that difficult to find a good runningback. Denver currently has three starting-caliber runningbacks in Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, and Royce Freeman. I believe that even if Lindsay was to leave, Denver could still run the ball effectively. Freeman would slot into the 3rd down, pass-catching role, and Gordon’s share in the offense would significantly growe into more of a workhorse role. Denver also has Levante Bellamy, who I would like to see on the field. I think in these last two games, Denver should give Bellamy an opportunity to get some carries. With all of these options on the roster, I would strongly advise against bringing in a different free agent running back or drafting one.
For those wondering about my thoughts on the subject, I believe that we should give Lindsay another shot. With all that has been going on this year and all that he has dealt with, I think he deserves another chance to prove that his 1000 yard seasons were not flukes. However, the world will not end if Denver parts ways with Lindsay. The Broncos have a wealth of good options to replace him, and his presence on the field would not be greatly missed. Also, he would be able to go somewhere where he will get the carries that he deserves. All in all, I think that the Broncos, and Lindsay, would be fine whether he stays or leaves, but it would be quite fitting for the Colorado Kid to retire as a Denver Bronco.