Phillip Lindsay grew up a Denver Broncos fan, so it is a little surreal for him to be suddenly the talk of the most popular team in Colorado.
That’s what happens when you go from undrafted to the hottest rookie running back to start the NFL season. Lindsay has been a key component in Denver’s 2-0 start, which seems unthinkable after no team took a chance on him in April’s draft.
The 31 other teams might be regretting not picking him after he became the first undrafted player to gain 100 or more yards in his first two NFL games.
The humble yet confident Lindsay has tried to deflect his strong start, but it is getting hard to ignore that he has made an impact on Denver’s offense.
“I am just playing football. That’s it,” he said after Sunday’s 20-19 win over Oakland. “I am just playing football for our team. I don’t think of things like that. For me, it’s just a great opportunity to go out there. I am just happy that we got the ‘W.’”
Lindsay has combined with fellow rookie running back Royce Freeman to give the Broncos different looks out of the backfield. Freeman, at 6-foot, 238 pounds, can deliver hits to tacklers and wear them down physically. The 5-8, 190-pound Lindsay gives Denver a change of pace that it didn’t have the previous few seasons.
The duo has helped take pressure off new quarterback Case Keenum by making defenses respect the run more. Both have found the end zone – Lindsay scored on a 29-yard reception in the opener and Freeman had a rushing touchdown against Oakland – and both have quickly made an impact.
Lindsay has had the quicker start – 178 yards on the ground through the first two games compared to 99 for Freeman – and he has 213 total yards in the first two weeks. Despite the impressive numbers, coach Vance Joseph doesn’t see a need to move Lindsay from third on the depth chart behind Freeman and Devonte Booker to a starting role.
“Our deal with that room is more of game planning, it’s what they do best, it’s who has the hot hand that day,” Joseph said. “We don’t have to make a depth chart change to give him more carries or to give Royce more carries or to give Book more opportunities. It's really what we do and to have three guys who are all different; it's really tough on defenses. It doesn’t matter who’s the starter.”
Lindsay is fine with his role, just as he was when he rushed for a school-record 4,587 yards at the University of Colorado. He was unheralded then but he’s finally getting some recognition playing for his hometown team. He is a finalist for Rookie of the Week and Player of the Week awards.
“He is a total package as a football player. He’s been impressive,” Keenum said. “He’s been really impressive.”