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With Royce Freeman’s status uncertain, "Thank God we got the little guy”

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 19, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have had two of the NFL’s best one-two punches through the first seven weeks of the season.

Bradley Chubb and Von Miller have combined to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, especially in recent weeks, racking up a combined 14 sacks through seven games.

On the other side of the ball, Denver’s rookie one-two punch of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay have jabbed their way to be a top 10 rushing attack in the league — averaging 125.1 yards per game on the ground — despite ranking in the bottom half of the league in rushing attempts.

“I think when Royce comes into the game—Here comes the big-bad Royce—it’s a heavy box most of the time. He’s getting heavier boxes and Phillip’s getting more fair boxes because of his skillset. It’s a good combination,” Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph said, explaining the differences of Denver’s two main running backs.

“Phillip’s a good football player. It’s not an accident he’s making plays. He’s consistently made plays each week. Whatever he’s given each week, he’s making the best of.”

However, after Thursday night’s 45-10 beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals, the Broncos could be without their anointed “one” of the rookie one-two punch.

Freeman, officially the team’s starting back, left Thursday’s game with a high ankle sprain, according to reports. On Friday, head coach Vance Joseph deemed him day-to-day.

“He’s still being evaluated,” Joseph said. “Hopefully he makes it to KC.”

Fortunately for all of the team’s injuries, they have extra time before playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8 a week from Sunday.

If, however, Freeman is not able to play, the Broncos have the perfect “two” in their back pocket to step up.

“Lindsay’s so different as a halfback. He’s a smaller guy who’s a really good receiver. He’s a matchup problem for linebackers, even safeties,” Joseph stated. “When he goes in the game, defenses are guessing, so he’s getting a lot of shell coverage. He gets the ball in between the tackles, it’s really a soft box. He’s finding it, he’s quick to the second level. He breaks tackles for a little guy.

That little guy will have anything but a little responsibility if Freeman can’t go against the Chiefs.

And praise the lord for Lindsay — whose 5.8 yards per carry is the fourth-highest in the league — somehow slipping all the way out of the draft into Denver’s lap as an undrafted rookie in April.

“A back with his size, you wouldn’t think he’s got that kind of vision to run in between the tackles, but he does, and he does break tackles with his speed,” Joseph said, instilling confidence that Lindsay could be Denver’s every-down back if Freeman can’t play. “He’s been a good player for us. I mean thank God we got the little guy.”

OTHER INJURY NEWS

Freeman’s uncertainty is just one of many injuries Denver is facing after playing two games in five days.

DaeSean Hamilton, who left the game and did not return, is day-to-day with a sprained MCL, according to reports. Hamilton was hit in the leg by an Arizona player while he was waiting to catch a fair punt.

Darian Stewart suffered his third neck stinger in a three week period on Thursday night. Due to the sensitive nature of that injury, Joseph didn’t sound as optimistic about a quick return, saying, “We’ll see about that.”

Will Parks replaced Stewart after he left the game and ended up playing in 91 percent of the defensive snaps. If Stewart can’t play in the coming weeks, Parks will once again be his replacement.

“I thought Parksy played good,” Joseph said, referring to Parks. “With Stew’s deal, he may have to play more for us. He’s in his third year so he should play that way for us. He’s played good dime for us the last month and a half. He did a good job at safety last night just making the calls, closing the middle and coverage on tight ends. I was pleased with Parksy last night. I really was.”

Emmanuel Sanders also left the game and did not return with an after injury after he planted his ankle wrong. On Friday, Joseph said Sanders is “OK. His ankle’s fine.”

There is also good news on the horizon as the Broncos are on the verge of getting a few players back from injuries.

“I think Adam Jones is going to play this week,” Joseph said without hesitation. “That’s going to help us obviously at corner and as a returner.”

Additionally, not only did Joseph deem Jared Veldheer (knee) and Shane Ray (ankle) as day-to-day, he said they are both “close” to returning. Neither played against the Cardinals.

“Obviously Shane is motivated, he wants to go home and play well,” the head coach said, referring to the Broncos playing in Ray’s hometown of Kansas City in Week 8. “We’ll see about Shane.”

After Thursday night’s victory, Joseph gave the team the long weekend off. His parting message to the team was simple.

“Recover, use this time to recover,” Joseph said. “When you play two games in five days, and we are sore and beat up a little bit. The training room is full of players. Most of the guys will be around here tomorrow getting treatments and working out a little bit. Use this time to recover and come back Monday with the mindset to go win a game.”

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