Patrick Judis: My first question has to be why the Broncos don’t use rookie running back Phillip Lindsay more?
Casey Barrett: There are a number of us that ask this very question every week. Despite being number seven in the league for total rushing yards (currently 780 yards), Broncos rookie running back Phillip Lindsay averages 12.3 rushing attempts per game (which is 23rd in the league). Comparatively speaking, Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy averages 12.8 rush attempts per game (22nd in the league), but only has 426 yards on the season. Oh, and Lindsay also went undrafted (I like to point that out as much as possible). With an average of 5.8 yards per game, we are now in the mystical realm of where your question will be answered. Because most of us don’t know why.
When looking at all of those numbers, it’s hard to figure out why he doesn’t get at least 25 touches per game. I have two thoughts on this, neither of which are great arguments.
Exhibit A: The coaching staff overthinks everything. The entire season, the backfield combo of Lindsay, Royce Freeman, and even Devontae Booker have been giving teams trouble. The last three games, the Broncos have come out pass heavy, which doesn’t make sense to me, unless you’re overthinking your opponent and how they will respond to your previous success. This is strictly a guess based on my perspective of watching this Broncos team since training camp.
Exhibit B: There’s too much underutilized talent on the offense, and the team hasn’t found the correct balance to use each position effectively. They want to get Royce Freeman more touches too. There’s also receivers Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and as well as DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick, whom they’re also excited about. Oh, and this team still has yet to find the consistent sweet spot for both fullback Andy Janovich and just about anyone playing the tight end position.
With all that, it’s easy to overthink, and it seems as though it is also easy to get lost in multiple “goals” during a game, sometimes forgetting what was working before and staying the path that is consistently working. Every week, the coaches for the Broncos have expressed desire to get Lindsay the ball more, and we’re all waiting for when that will truly happen.
PJ: The Broncos traded away Demaryius Thomas at the trade deadline. How has that impacted the passing game?
CB: On paper, it doesn’t look that different. During the game, it doesn’t look that different. Don’t get me wrong, Thomas is a great receiver, but I think it came time for the team to recognize that they have a very talented group of first and second year players that they feel are ready to move into those roles. Sutton has been a great addition to the wide receiver group. He is very similar to Thomas, in that he’s big, fast, has strong hands and is creative bringing the ball down. He also has been great staying with plays and making important blocks downfield.
Hamilton and Patrick have filled in those three and four receivers nicely and have come up with some important plays when called upon. While I don’t think it’s right to say that anyone has filled Thomas’ shoes, they have had some good young players make similar plays that Thomas can/does/did.
It has also seemed to open up a couple of extra touches for Sanders, who the Broncos have incorporated in the offense in various creative ways. I wish Thomas all the positive vibes in the world for his career, but I feel like both Thomas and the Broncos came out of the deal okay.
PJ: For many Bengals’ fans it is hard to forget a player like Domata Peko. However, he was never as good for Cincinnati as he has been for Denver. Is there any reason for his improved performance in Denver’s defense?
CB: Peko has become one of my favorite players; simply because he works hard, understands where he is and is one of the nicest guys for it. I thoroughly have enjoyed watching him since he arrived in for the 2017 season. He was the best free agent pick up of that season for the Broncos, in my honest opinion. I can’t speak for his performance change though. Statistically speaking, he’s not that improved. However, I feel like his presence has been felt in more meaningful plays.
With that said, there are plenty of players that have long careers with a single team, that find a rejuvenation effect after moving to a new city. That could speak to any number of things. But even regular people can feel they’re not performing their best at a job, even if they like the work. A fresh start someplace new, even if it’s the same job, can make a tremendous difference for the soul, and I feel like that is what I saw when Peko came to Denver.
PJ: Who is one player on either side of the ball that you don’t think gets enough attention from a national perspective?
CB: Being that both the Bengals and the Broncos are not on the eastern coast (or west, but let’s be real the east gets all the media coverage), there are plenty of players both of us have seen that never got the national attention, simply because those teams aren’t on a coast. I want to scream Lindsay, simply because an undrafted running back doing what he has been doing SHOULD get the national attention. Or Chris Harris Jr., who has never received the praise he should as another undrafted diamond in the rough. I also wanted to talk about Shaquil Barrett at outside linebacker, but his injury this week appears to serious enough to keep him out of practice and probably the game, so there’s that. As I get deeper into this paragraph, I’m finding it hard to pick one particular player.
If I had to choose a player to watch this Sunday that you’ve never heard of, it would be Matt LaCosse, the third-year tight end out of Illinois. With Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman (and Troy Fumagalli) done for their seasons, LaCosse finds himself in a position to really shine. After putting up three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown last week against the Steelers, I look for the confidence level of the coaches, Quarterback Case Keenum and LaCosse to be higher this week, with a chance to sneak in some important plays for the Broncos.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game on Sunday?
CB: On paper, there are many of us that think this is an important game for the Broncos identity and with the Bengals suffering so many injuries, it shouldn’t be all that close of a game.
HOWEVER, that’s not how the NFL works, the dramatic irony that comes with games that people are so sure of their outcomes has become comedic. So I will err on the side of caution and think this will be closer than it probably should be. It’s important for the Broncos to not overlook a team simply because of how many key players are not participating due to injury. All that being said, I look for Keenum to finally relax and have himself a game, and the Broncos win 31-21.
Thanks again to Casey Barrett of Mile High Report for taking the time out to answer our questions. If you’d like to see more of his work or the rest of the Mile High Reports work you can check it out here.