Carney Column: Phillip Lindsay a beacon for hard work, determination
The Denver Broncos are off to a fast start at 2-0, thanks in large part to a rejuvenated offense and a stout defense, but the biggest story line coming out of Englewood 2 weeks in the 2018 regular season in the budding star power of undrafted rookie free agent Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay, second all-time in rushing yards for the Colorado Buffaloes and first all-time in all-purpose yards, has emerged as a key component to a rebuilt offense in the Mile High City. The diminutive running back has been a force to be reckoned with on the ground and through the air, sitting third in the NFL in rushing yards through 2 games with 178 yards on 29 attempts (4.9 yards per carry), adding 35 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Watching the Tasmanian Devil carve up defenses for the Broncos is a sight to behold, but it also raises a major question: how in the world did this guy go undrafted?
Aside from my job here at the Post Independent, I work on the side as an NFL Draft evaluator, taking a look at a number of NFL Draft prospects heading into each year’s draft. This spring, I had a chance to watch Lindsay’s tape, and quite honestly, I had him pegged as a Day 3 pick, somewhere in the range of the 5th or 6th round. To see a guy like Lindsay – with all his production and school records set at a place like CU with a rich running back history – go undrafted was mind boggling.
While at CU, Lindsay could do it all: run between the tackles, convert short-yardage situations, catch the ball out of the backfield, hit the home run plays, and protect his quarterbacks in pass protection. Quite honestly, the main reason he went undrafted was his size: 5’8”, 190 pounds.
At some point, the NFL – and sports in general – needs to catch up to the times and realize size isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. What matters more than size is the will power, work ethic and shear determination.
What matters above all is how big that thing in your chest is and how hard it beats. For Lindsay, nobody on the Broncos can say they have more heart and determination this year.
Now, some could say I’m over-exaggerating, but think about this: Lindsay was undrafted and signed as a priority free agent by John Elway immediately after the draft. In the 2018 draft, the Broncos spent 2 draft picks on running backs: Royce Freeman out of Oregon, and David Williams out of Arkansas. Lindsay – at the time – was a feel-good signing, giving the hometown guy a shot at achieving his NFL dream. Lindsay was a 3-star recruit out of Denver South High School and received just 4 Division 1 offers: CU, Utah, Texas A&M, and New Mexico.
Realistically, nobody outside of Lindsay’s family had to think he had a shot at cracking the 53-man roster, let alone taking on a starter’s workload. But here we are 2 weeks into the regular season.
If you remember a couple of weeks ago, I made a big deal about Vance Joseph naming Devontae Booker the starting running back over Freeman, who dominated in the preseason. Now, here I am with egg on my face because Joseph is playing the best running back on the roster: Lindsay.
Through 2 games, Lindsay is playing 40 percent of the offensive snaps, which means he’s out-snapping Freeman and Booker. Through the 2 games, Lindsay has 40 percent of the snaps, with 23 routes run, and 32 touches. Freeman, after winning the starting job coming out of the preseason, has been a solid back for the Broncos, but he’s receiving just 33 percent of the snaps with 19 routes run and 23 touches. Then there’s Booker, who receiving 28 percent of the snaps, 19 routes run, and 7 touches.
It’s pretty clear how much the Broncos believe in him. Aside from being a feel-good story as an undrafted rookie now starting for a playoff contender, he’s turning into one of the top dual-threat backs in football.
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