Former Broncos Pro Bowler, CU star Phillip Lindsay finds new NFL home
The Indianapolis Colts picked up a good running back when they signed former Denver Bronco Phillip Lindsay on Tuesday. Lindsay had been a free agent for some time, generating a little bit of interest, but he was patient and found the right landing spot with the Colts.
With the Colts, Lindsay is on a team that has intentions of making a deep postseason run. They are a team that wants to run the ball early and often while playing great defense on the other side of the ball to win in an ‘old school’ fashion.
— Mike McCartney (@MikeMcCartney7) May 17, 2022
What can Lindsay do with the Colts, and why didn’t the Broncos show more interest? Let’s take a look.
Backing Up a Superstar
The Colts feature superstar running back Jonathan Taylor as their starter and centerpiece of what they do on offense. Taylor is arguably the best running back in the NFL, and he can produce at a high level both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. In 17 games last season, Taylor ran the ball 332 times for 1,811 yards and a whopping 18 rushing touchdowns. Taylor also had 40 catches for 360 yards and two receiving touchdowns. In 2021, Taylor accounted for 10 100-yard games on the ground and one 100-yard game as a receiver. Simply put, Taylor is one of the best in the business and will not yield many touches to Lindsay so long as he’s healthy.
This is a great landing spot for Lindsay, but it’s also a good move for the Colts as they don’t have many runners with experience behind Taylor. They do have a Pro Bowl caliber receiving back (more on that in a bit), but the Colts now have veteran experience – and proven production – if they need a runner like Lindsay.
In training camp, Lindsay will compete with guys like Deon Jackson, D’Vonte Price, Max Borghi and C.J. Verdell. If you don’t know who those guys are – don’t worry – most outside of Colts fans won’t (although Colorado fans will remember Borghi from his high school days at Pomona). Lindsay has two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, and he doesn’t fumble the football. That means the Colts can trust him if they need to in an emergency. The other players he’s competing with are more unknown talents, so the advantage goes to Lindsay.
If Taylor is banged up, the Colts can turn to Lindsay as their primary ball-carrier. However, it’s unlikely they’ll go to him as a receiver out of the backfield or as a full-time back. Behind Taylor is Nyheim Hines, and he’s one of the most dangerous receiving backs in the NFL.
If Taylor is injured, the Colts will likely utilize both Lindsay and Hines to attack defenses. They can still run the ball often and use the rushing attack to lead the way, but it won’t come down to one man. Instead, Linday could get most of the rushing attempts, but Hines would be used even more than when Taylor’s on the field. Part of that is because Hines is a threat to score in space anytime he touches the ball, and part of that is Lindsay has never thrived as a receiver out of the backfield. It’s not just poor passes from Drew Lock, Lindsay has not proven he can catch consistently at any of his stops in the NFL.
Being in a timeshare is something Lindsay is used to from the 2020 season with the Broncos when he and Melvin Gordon split backfield responsibilities. This split would be a little different because Hines is a great receiver and limited as a runner. Lindsay is a good runner but limited as a receiver, so it’s running-back-by-committee all the way if Taylor is injured this season.
Why Not Denver?
Lindsay’s time with the Broncos was special, but it came to an unceremonious end. Undrafted out of the University of Colorado in 2018, Lindsay became an instant fan favorite in Broncos Country. Not only did fans love him locally, but Fantasy GMs loved him as well because he was a late-round pick in fantasy leagues or a waiver wire addition who went on to a 1,000-yard season as a rookie – only the second undrafted rookie running back to do that in NFL history. In his second season, Lindsay produced at almost an identical level as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
It’s his third season with the Broncos when things started to fall apart. He split time with Gordon, so his production went down – and the Broncos coaching staff didn’t seem to know how to use either back correctly. Often times, Lindsay was doing things Gordon was better at and Gordon was asked to do things Lindsay was better at. After the 2020 season, the Broncos decided it was time to go in a different direction.
They placed an original round tender on Lindsay, something he likely saw as an insult based on his Pro Bowl season and previous production. Lindsay asked for the tender to be removed, and the Broncos obliged – making him an unrestricted free agent. Lindsay landed with the Houston Texans but quickly fell out of favor with them and played just 10 games. He then found himself with the Miami Dolphins where he appeared in four games, but Lindsay did little to make a positive impression there either. He ended the 2021 season with just 88 carries for 249 yards and one touchdown.
With the Broncos bringing Gordon back in free agency to play with Javonte Williams – and with Mike Boone as a valuable pass-catching back – there was no need for Lindsay. Fans would have loved it, but it just didn’t make sense to go back down that road. Lindsay has almost always proved the doubters wrong, and now on his third team in two years he’s got more plenty to prove. The Colts were a much better spot for him than coming back to the Broncos where he may not have made the 53-man roster if Williams, Gordon and Boone all stayed healthy. With the Colts, Lindsay can be valuable insurance – and for Fantasy GMs he could be a valuable handcuff to the likely no.1 overall pick in your fantasy drafts – Jonathan Taylor.