In the 2018 season, the Broncos featured two rookie running backs prominently. Of course, there was Phillip Lindsay, the undrafted Colorado kid who took the league by storm, but they also had third-round power back Royce Freeman.
One might assume that Lindsay’s meteoric rise to super-stardom could create a rift in the backfield or make Freeman feel overshadowed, but it sounds like that is far from the case. In an interview following Tuesday OTAs, Freeman was asked how he balanced being happy for Lindsay with the disappointment of not having the same production his rookie season.
“I think that’s the type of person I am,” Freeman explained. “I always want to see my brothers succeed, and he earned it. He went out there and he played so fierce and competitively.
“But also the competitive nature in both of us and pushing each other,” he continued. “I think that’s what is actually important. Because when I was down, I was helping him out and telling him what I saw on the field or in these areas. He did the same for me. I think that’s the competitive nature as well as the helpful mindset we have in the running backs room.”
In 2018, Freeman and Lindsay combined with rookie receiver Courtland Sutton for the most yards from scrimmage ever by a rookie trio with 2,574 yards combined. That’s an insane 46 percent of the Broncos’ total offensive production from last season. That dominant trio on Denver’s offense should be ready to take another leap in 2019 along with the rest of the loaded 2018 draft class, as Sutton, and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton get more snaps with a better quarterback in Joe Flacco.
The strength of the Broncos’ dynamic running back duo was their versatility. Not only could they stretch and spread the defense out with Lindsay’s game-wrecking speed, but they could lean on Freeman to break up stacked boxes and gain the tough yards between the tackles.
“Last year was definitely a great one-two punch. I think we compliment each other really well,” Freeman said. “He goes out there and does his thing. I feel like I can go out and do the same. I think we both have the mindset that no matter who is in the game, we’re both able to accomplish what the offense needs and trade off.”
That phenomenal one-two punch from a year ago was unlike anything the NFL has ever seen. No rookie tandem with at least 50 carries each has ever earned a higher combined grade from Pro Football Focus (145.7).
With the Bears trading Jordan Howard to the Eagles, and Tevin Coleman, Mark Ingram and Le’Veon Bell finding new homes in free agency, there is a void of dominant running back tandems in the league. Given another year of development, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman could easily take that spot atop the NFL.