Broncos' RB Phillip Lindsay Focused on Doing What it Takes to Shine in Shurmur's Offense
Phillip Lindsay has already proven that he can be a dominant rusher of the football at the NFL level. The Denver Broncos' star back is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, which is the first and only time in NFL history an undrafted player has pulled that off in each of his first two years.
However, whether due to the wrist injury he suffered late in the 2018 season, and the subsequent surgeries that have followed, or simply because it wasn't at the top of his docket of football priorities, Lindsay still has a long way to go if he wants to become a true three-down running back. The man can run inside or outside the tackles and he's a surprisingly savvy blocker when it comes to blitz pickup, despite his relatively diminutive 5-foot-8 frame.
But as a receiver, Lindsay has been more of a liability than an asset since joining the Broncos. Becoming a great pass-catcher out of the backfield is the next step of his progression.
That is only compounded by the arrival of new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur's scheme is dependent on running backs being heavily involved in the passing game. Fortunately, Lindsay has gotten the memo and plans on doing everything he can this offseason to hone his route-running and pass-catching abilities.
Lindsay told ESPN's Jeff Legwold that he plans "to work on my routes, really get that down, I mean, that could be big."
There are multiple resources available to Lindsay, one of which is All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, whom Lindsay is well acquainted with and has already mentioned as a possible offseason workout partner.
"I'll get with a couple people, a couple running backs, honestly," Lindsay said as he cleaned out his locker. "Maybe Christian, maybe even Theo [Riddick] if Theo's healthy. He's honestly one of the best route runners I've seen in the NFL. ... It's about repetition. I might go work with [Niners WR] Emmanuel [Sanders], really get into detail."
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As Legwold aptly points out, Saquon Barkley's usage in Shurmur's scheme over the past two seasons in New York produced prolific receiving numbers. Barkley hauled in a whopping 91 receptions as a rookie and a 52 this past season.
Barkley, Jerick McKinnon, Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy and Steven Jackson have each had at least one 50-reception season with Shurmur overseeing the offense. That will be music to Lindsay's ears.
Let's put those numbers into context. Last season, Courtland Sutton led the Broncos with 72 receptions. The next highest guy? Noah Fant, a tight end, with 40.
Granted, it was in the extremely pedantic Rich Scangarello offense with three different starting quarterbacks, but still. Shurmur's offense is going to produce a lot more opportunities for all of the skill-position players and if Lindsay wants to be able to maximize his, he'll have to become a commanding receiver out of the backfield. That means developing soft, good hands, crisp routes and a knack for picking up yards after the catch. That last one is no problem for him.
For Lindsay, it all comes down to winning football games, even if he's not the tip of the spear. However, the whole point of Shurmur replacing Scangarello is to maximize Drew Lock's ability and get the Broncos' offense scoring more points, which should, in theory, produce more wins. To contribute to that rising offensive tide in every way he can, Lindsay simply has to get better as a receiver.
"I just want to do whatever we need to do to win games," Lindsay said. "Because at the end of the day it's about winning games, going to the playoffs. And I want to work on everything, get better at everything, but I know I can get better running routes, catching the ball."
Fortunately, with Lindsay's spirit and drive, there's nothing he can't achieve if he sets his mind to it. So, give the Colorado Kid time to recover from his latest wrist surgery. Before long, Lindsay is likely to be found at myriad parks and fields across the greater Denver area running routes with the likes of McCaffrey or Riddick.
"I'll put the work in," Lindsay said. "It's just the repetition, doing it over and over again, getting better, being where Drew expects me to be and being that reliable guy, getting separation, making plays. Whatever we need to do to finish drives with touchdowns more times, that's the key."