Coming into the season it was obvious that Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman would share touches in Denver. They are both promising young players that provide a great 1-2 punch with very different running styles. As we move into week 7, it is becoming quite clear how the Broncos offense works with the two and who is taking charge. Before their Thursday night showdown with the Chiefs (where both should be strong considerations), Lindsay is RB12 and Freeman is RB26.
For our draft guide, I wrote a piece about whether or not Lindsay could replicate his historical rookie season. I took the stance that he would produce, but not necessarily at the same rate as last year. I had faith that Freeman would make a bigger jump in his sophomore season and believed the new coaching regime would impact Lindsay’s carries.
To this point in the season, I was wrong to doubt that Lindsay would repeat his rookie success. He was pretty quiet through the first four games of the season but has really picked things up over the last two weeks, consequently the Broncos only victories. In Denver’s wins against the Chargers and Titans, Lindsay has put together 30 carries for 184 and two touchdowns. He seems to be getting back into a rhythm and using his vision and speed to break off big runs. During the two game stretch, Freeman hasn’t had nearly the same impact on the offense. There have even multiple moments where Freeman’s entry and the offense stalling seem to coincide.
It’s not that Freeman has been playing poorly, but rather Lindsay has stepped his game up. It is no secret that the Broncos were going to use both backs and have had a near 50-50 split through the first six games. Lindsay leads the duo with 84 rushing attempts, but Freeman isn’t far off with 66. The difference of 18 carries has resulted in Lindsay rushing for a little more than 100 yards this season compared to Freeman. The gap between the two has slowly started to increase with Lindsay’s recent surge over the last couple of weeks. They both have been targeted 26 times in the passing game, which is an area that Freeman has exceeded expectations. While not the prototypical receiving back, he has shown sure hands and has made defenders miss in space. Freeman is 13th among running backs with 21 catches this season. The biggest discrepancy for fantasy owners is Lindsay finding the endzone four times to Freeman’s one.
Freeman will still have a role, and a relatively significant one at that. He is a strong runner that has shown the ability to help in the passing game. In a perfect world, Lindsay would be the horse to build a lead in the first three quarters and Freeman would be the closer to kill the clock in the 4th. However, that isn’t likely the case. The Broncos are more likely to ride the hotter hand and rotate the two throughout the game. The Broncos coaching staff, and Lindsay, love what Freeman brings to the table and will continue to give him the ball.
I would expect that the 50-50 split to start tilting more and more in Lindsay’s favor. He is the most dynamic weapon that the Broncos have and if they want to continue their winning ways, they’ll need to find ways to give him the ball. Freeman should continue being a solid bench running back that you can call on in a pinch, but don’ expect him and Lindsay to put similar numbers by season’s end.