This offseason could be one of the biggest in recent history for the Denver Broncos in determining the future of this franchise. Having the third-youngest roster and the youngest offense in football means the Broncos could go in a lot of different directions.
One player, in particular, whose offseason attack could go a long way toward determining the success or failure of the Broncos offense is RB Phillip Lindsay.
Zac Stevens of the DNVR recently reported that Lindsay 'may' be working out with Christian McCaffrey this offseason. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA, McCaffrey just capped off the best running back season of the past decade, eclipsing the 1,000-yard barrier both as a rusher and as a receiver.
McCaffrey has truly become one of the greatest weapons in the NFL at any position. Lindsay has shown himself to be a unique weapon in that even at his stature, he is one that is not afraid to run between the tackles. Color commentators all the time reveal how little they watch Lindsay play, when they categorize him as a speed back wanting to bounce every run outside.
That's not Lindsay's game. He has that ability, of course, but because he has proven to be productive no matter where he is running the football — inside or out — it means he has proven to be a true bell-cow back.
The one area still holding Lindsay back from being a true three-down back is the passing game — specifically, being a receiver. This is why Lindsay potentially planning to work with McCaffrey to improve his receiving ability matters so much.
The best running backs in the NFL these days are those that do not have to leave the field in obvious passing situations. The name of the game in the NFL passing-wise is spacing.
Teams want to make a defense have to defend every square inch of the field, which is why you keeping hearing about how the Broncos need to find a speed weapon at the wide receiver position to beat opponents over the top. That opens up more opportunities in the short and intermediate area where a guy like Lindsay could find some one-on-one opportunities and really shine.
What happens next for the Broncos in free agency and the draft? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
What Lindsay Stands to Learn From McCaffrey
There are two things that I think Lindsay needs to learn from McCaffrey. The first is the art of route running. When taking a hand-off, Lindsay does a great job of showing some patience until he sees a hole open up and then bursts through it.
In the passing game, though, he looks like a man being chased by a wild bear. He is full-go to his spot. I love the energy, but there are times in running routes that one must set up the defender — then burst through to find an opening.
This is especially true in the screen game. Running right to his spot as soon as the ball is snapped alerts the defense to what is happening. If he can learn some of the nuances that come with route running, he truly could burst onto the scene as one of the best young weapons in the NFL.
The second thing Lindsay could learn from McCaffrey is simply catching the football. It's worth mentioning that Lindsay was hampered this past offseason as he recovered from his wrist injury, which likely contributed to his lack of development as a pass-catcher.
I had commented on the Building the Broncos podcast after watching Lindsay perform in person at training camp last summer that he was struggling to consistently catch the football. In one practice I saw him have three drops on easy dump-off plays.
Some of that could be him trying to do too much, but honestly, he's not the most natural hand-catcher of the football. This past season, he had 46 targets with 35 of those ending with him actually catching the football. Those seem like pretty good numbers until you factor in that six of those incomplete targets were a drop.
Lindsay dropped 13% of all passes thrown his way. This is a big reason why Royce Freeman was the running back of choice when it came to obvious passing situations or passing plays that were called to get the ball in the running back's hands in a hurry — such as a screen pass.
Freeman did decently in this role for the team, but my guess is the Broncos would love to see Lindsay become the guy in the passing game with his incredible burst opening up big-play opportunities. Lindsay would be wise to spend the offseason with a jugs machine.
I would also recommend since Drew Lock is planning on staying in Denver, which is where Lindsay lives full-time, that the two get together for quite a few passing sessions this offseason.
Lindsay has been one of the best young players on the Broncos’ roster. Denver would be wise to get a deal done with him this offseason, especially if he is planning on working to become a better pass-catching option heading into 2020.
If Lindsay can master that skill-set, his future impact could be off the charts. Bronco insider Benjamin Allbright has already told fans to keep an eye out for the team adding a speed option at the wide receiver position. If Denver does that and Lindsay can strike fear into defenses when he runs a route out of the backfield, then the Broncos could easily be looking at a top-10 offense next season.