The Denver Broncos have mulled it over and ultimately chose on Saturday to place running back Phillip Lindsay on injured reserve, effectively ending his 2020 campaign. 9NEWS' Mike Klis broke the news.
Lindsay's season has been compromised by constant nagging injuries, starting with the turf toe he suffered in the season-opener that kept him off the field until Week 6. He fought through it, though, and broke off the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career when he returned to the lineup in New England.
From there, Lindsay suffered a concussion vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 in a helmet-to-helmet hit. The NFL fined safety Daniel Sorensen for the transgression but it was cold comfort to the Broncos and Lindsay as the dynamic back had been on fire up to that point in the game before the dirty hit, having popped off 79 yards on nine carries by the third quarter.
Lindsay cleared concussion protocol in time to play the next week but his ensuing two games were forgettable. He bounced back in a big way in Week 11, helping lead the Broncos to an upset victory over the Miami Dolphins with 82 rushes on 16 carries.
The next week, after a mask-wearing snafu that led to the NFL making all Denver quarterbacks ineligible to play and forcing the Broncos to play the New Orleans Saints without a true signal-caller, Lindsay suffered that knee injury. As a Wildcat QB, it was run after run into the teeth of a Saints defense that knew it did not have to defend the pass and just stacked the box.
Lindsay hasn't been the same runner since then, though he didn't miss time. He picked up a hip injury somewhere in the interim, likely against Buffalo last week, and the Broncos ruled him out of Week 16's road trip to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
With the playoffs out of reach, the team had more to gain by placing Lindsay on IR and prioritizing his long-term health than having him out there for what amount to two exhibition games. All in, Lindsay finished 2020 with 502 rushing yards on 118 carries (4.25 avg) and one touchdown while chipping in seven receptions for 14 yards for 28 yards.
Lindsay will hit 2021 as a restricted free agent. The expectation is that the Broncos will tender him, likely at the second-round level, despite coming off an injury-riddled season. Lindsay will turn 27 next summer and is still very much in his prime as a running back.
The Broncos, if Pat Shurmur stays, need to find more creative and custom ways to use Lindsay from the offensive coordinator. Lindsay is a fine runner between the tackles for a player of his 5-foot-8, 190-pound stature, but his calling card is the speed and short-area burst that tacklers find so difficult to bottle up.
A player with Lindsay's talents should be used more on the perimeter but the closest Shurmur ever got to that were a few traps that saw a quick-pulling guard open up the B- or C-gap. It never felt like Shurmur valued Lindsay, watching the way he was deployed this season.
The job of a coordinator is to fit the scheme to the personnel. Perhaps due to the lack of a true offseason or preseason, Shurmur has been very slow to show any signs of fitting his scheme to his players.
Instead — whether at running back or quarterback or wide receiver — Shurmur's square-peg/round-hole approach has led to an inconsistent Broncos offense. It's actually quite noteworthy how bad this offense has been, considering the wealth of talent at the skill positions — and I'm including Drew Lock.
I suppose that's a topic for another time. For now, we must bid adieu to Lindsay. Fans will hope to see him back in the Orange and Blue next year and all signs point to that... for now.
In a corresponding move, the Broncos promoted rookie back LeVante Bellamy to the active roster. The running back position is one to watch this Sunday because the Broncos are suddenly very thin there with Lindsay on IR and Royce Freeman questionable.
It's the Melvin Gordon show these final two weeks — which is right up Shurmur's alley.