ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Phillip Lindsay remains a stranger to nuance. He talks like he plays: blunt, raw and passionate.
So after Wednesday's practice, which featured improvement by the offense, I asked if he watching the Denver Nuggets' postseason run can inspire the Broncos' young core of players.
"Yes. And let's keep it real. You don’t want to be the only Colorado team not in the playoffs. That doesn’t feel good," said Lindsay, clearly giving the spiraling Rockies the benefit of the doubt.
Lindsay remains nothing if not candid. Understand this is deeply personal. Lindsay grew up in Denver. He read Terrell Davis' autobiography, starred at the University of Colorado and followed the Broncos' closely for years. He knows the history. And it pains him that Denver owns a four-year postseason drought.
Before the season, I predicted the Broncos would end the spell, reaching with a 9-7 record. There have been times watching practice, namely last Saturday, that the projection seems ambitious. So how do the Broncos find a way back under the velvet rope? The key is surviving the month of September with four games against the Titans, Steelers, Buccaneers and Jets.
Navigating this challenge can seem like climbing Longs Peak in Crocs. The key sits right at the Broncos' feet, according to Lindsay.
"You guys made a big deal of the passing game (in offseason). The running game opens up the passing game. The easiest thing is to establish the running game to help (second-year quarterback) Drew (Lock) out. Drew is going to be fine," Lindsay said. "But we can take some pressure off him."
General manager John Elway stressed patience with the offense before training camp opened. After day 15, his words continue to ring true. The group is a work in progress. There is more talent, but the timing of the passing game is not yet in sync. The ability to get physical remains critical. The Broncos ranked 20th in rushing (103.9) and 30th in third-down conversions last season.
They must improve.
Lindsay became the first undrafted free agent to eclipse 1,000 yards in his first two years. But the Broncos chose to diversify, signing Melvin Gordon. After sitting out with sore ribs for multiple days, Gordon has gained traction. It's becoming easier to see how these two can complement each other, while opening up play-action, vertical strikes for Lock.
Lindsay appears to be the starter, but Fangio doesn't believe it matters given how the workload will divvy up. The former CU star is poised to contribute, regardless of the depth chart. Or maybe in spite of it.
"I don't need 20 carries to get where I need to go. I don't need to get warmed up. I can be the spark player. I can be the starter," Lindsay said. "At the end of the day, no matter who is in the way, they can do well, but I will make sure I do my part."
It can be argued Lindsay has been the Broncos' most impressive offensive player in camp. He's certainly been the loudest. He loves engaging with safety Kareem Jackson, talking trash and revving up the workout. He is not naive to the fact that the offense has been clumsy at times. But, he insists, a solution exists. And it starts with an attitude.
"We need to punch people in the mouth," Lindsay said. "We need to be able to run the ball well."
Chubb, Glasgow updates
The idea that Bradley Chubb will be full go on opening night is growing increasing unlikely. Coach Vic Fangio expects him to return to practice soon, but his workload will be limited as they take precautions with his left knee. I expect Chubb to be on a play count if he starts vs. the Titans, amplifying the importance of reserves Malik Reed and Jeremiah Attaochu. Chubb has not attended practice the past two days.
Right guard Graham Glasgow (right ankle) is expected to return to practice in a few days after suffering a sprain on Saturday. He observed practice and wasn't limping as he walked around the field, a good sign moving forward.
Fangio provided a surprise, giving undrafted Essang Bassey first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. It shows he's in the mix for the job. Bassey is competing with De'Vante Bausby, Devontae Harris, Duke Dawson and rookie Michael Ojemudia, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing several days with a quad injury. ...
The Broncos will get one last dress rehearsal, practicing under the lights at Empower Field at Mile High on Friday night. It will be similar to Saturday's practice, and offer a chance for acclimation and for a few players to make final impressions. The roster must be trimmed from 80 to 53 by Saturday at 2 p.m. However, teams can keep 16 practice squad players this season, including those with more experience than in years past.