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Phillip Lindsay provides reason for hope for Broncos offense

Thanks to Lindsay, Broncos remain in hunt
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Posted at 2:51 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 17:13:57-05

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Phillip Lindsay's season demands nicknames. 

He plays with his hair -- and there's plenty of locks to admire -- on fire. He runs with such ferocity that left tackle Garett Bolles calls him "our pitbull." In truth, he's more like a human Red Bull, caffeinating an offense with his darts, dashes and breathtaking improvisations. 

"Our line," said Lindsay, "blocks their (butts) off. Given them credit."

Lindsay enters Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers needing 60 yards to set a Broncos record for an undrafted rookie. Selvin Young set the mark with 729 in 2007. He remains on pace for 1,072, which would rank fifth all-time by a Broncos' first-year player, a tick behind Terrell Davis (1,117 in 1995).

It's hard to imagine where the Broncos offense would be without Lindsay. His five rushing touchdowns sit two shy of NFL rookie leader Saquon Barkley. Barkley leads Lindsay by 58 rushing yards.

The difference is Barkley received a $15 million signing bonus. Lindsay signed for $15,000.

"I love the energy he brings to the offense, to the huddle," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.

What makes this remarkable is the Broncos have two mouths to feed in the backfield. Rookie Royce Freeman owns 332 yards. The pair's 1,002 yards on the ground is tied for the fourth-best running duo in the NFL through 11 weeks. Lindsay believes they complement each other well, Denver's version of a jab and a haymaker. 

"(Lindsay) is a firecracker," Bolles said. "He's going to do everything we need to put us in a good situation. The way he pounds the rock, he gives people problems."

Added quarterback Case Keenum, "I think being undrafted gives him a chip on his shoulder."

Lindsay landed in Denver in unusual fashion. He wasn't invited to the NFL combine despite starring in his final two college seasons at CU. Scouts considered him undersized. He left Denver South High School weighing 160 pounds and plays a tick above 190 in the pros. Being told he's small only lights his fuse. He signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent despite a bigger offer from Baltimore. 

The first week of camp linebacker Brandon Marshall told anyone who would listen that Lindsay was making the team. He pegged him as a third-down back. He sold him short. Lindsay is a powerful runner, capable of 20 touches a game.

"This is not a fluke," coach Vance Joseph said. "This is who he is."

All-Pro linebacker Von Miller gives rookies benefit of the doubt until they prove him wrong. Lindsay remains humble, still living at home. 

"He has proved me right. He has been the same guy this whole time," Miller said. "Nothing has changed him. That's hard when you grow up here, go to school here. You can have all that on your back."

Lindsay does not consider himself a feel-good story. Perhaps because he felt he could do this all along. When he looks across the field, admiration will follow. James Conner is the Steelers' version of Lindsay with helium-inflated stats and a bigger frame. Like Lindsay, he was a local high school star who played for an in-state college in Pitt. He overcame Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and stepped into stardom this season after star Le'Veon Bell elected to sit out the season.

"We all had to deal (with the drama of the Bell holdout)," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on a conference call Wednesday. "I was happy with the way James handled it."

Lindsay continues to play like he's on a one-day contract, insisting he must earn the veterans' respect. In truth, he's well past that. They believe in him, and, if this trend continues, hope to follow his production back into contention.  


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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.