Phillip Lindsay had one of his best games of his young career last Sunday, and helped propel Denver’s offense to a victory over the Chargers.
Lindsay has been the biggest surprise of the, so far, stellar 2018 rookie class for the Broncos, averaging just under six yards every time he touches the ball. So it isn’t surprising that Denver has been scheming ways to get him more touches, and utilize his skill set.
On a day when everyone is looking for a deal, did anyone get a better one this year the Broncos with Phillip Lindsay?— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 23, 2018
Went undrafted, got $15K to sign.
He’s now 9th in the NFL in rushing yards and has played more offensive snaps that the entire 7th round of the draft combined.
Here’s a few different ways Denver used Lindsay on Sunday.
I really like this one, and hope we see it again near the goal line. The Red zone is an area Denver has struggled this season, so it’s good to see them drawing up new ways to win there.
Case Keenum motions out as a receiver, leaving Lindsay alone in the wildcat, running a “QB” power. Billy Turner at LG is going to pull around while RT and TE double Joey Bosa, #99.
Watch as the linebackers and safety all key on Turner pulling, following him to try and disrupt the play.
Here is the brilliance and patience and of Phillip Lindsay. He sees the 2nd level flowing towards the playside, and stutter steps to that direction, and the second he sees the safety and linebacker step forward, he plants his foot and cuts out the backside for the touchdown.
You can see it even better in the replay below. Watch how Lindsay’s cut is perfectly timed up with #51 and #37 flowing towards the play.
We’ll see this patience and manipulation of the second level to set up blocks again later on.
Denver also made a more intentional effort to get Lindsay involved in the passing game as this was his second highest output on the season in targets and catches.
Here Lindsay aligns in the slot to the wide side of the field for a quick screen with Heuerman and Sutton leading the way downfield.
This is a nice design by Denver to take advantage of the Chargers cover-3 zone. It’s essentially 3-on-3 on that side of the field with Heuerman taking the safety, Sutton taking the corner.
This leaves Lindsay with only once man to beat, the chasing linebacker. Anytime you can get a player with Lindsay’s skillset out in the open field with only a linebacker to beat, you have a good chance.
We have talked a lot about the curl/flat and slant/flat combo this year and how it is a staple of Keenum’s and the Broncos offense.
This is another good design for LA’s cover-3. The receiver out wide motions down into a tighter split at the numbers, and the tight end will run a seam route bringing him into the corner’s zone, which runs the corner well out of the play.
The receiver on the curl essentially runs a pick for Lindsay, and the only player left to chase him is the linebacker who has to come all the way over the top of the curl.
Again, when you can scheme a player like Lindsay into space with the ball, good things happen. Now, this one was disrupted a bit by the offsides, so the throw wasn’t as on point, but this continues to be a money play for Denver and Lindsay.
Here is another one getting Lindsay out on a quick swing pass on a key 3rd and 3, in the red zone, so this hits all of the key things Denver has struggled with in the passing game, red zone and 3rd down success.
The two guys to beat here are the linebacker and the safety, who are not in any position to make a play on this.
The receivers do a good job being patient to not engage their blocks until the ball is in Lindsay’s hands, then he does the rest.
Lastly, we cannot talk about Lindsay’s great game without talking about his biggest run of the day. Once again his patience and vision is on display here on this duo run.
First of all, it is another good job of scheming/playcalling by Bill Musgraves as Denver comes out in 11 personnel, catching the Chargers in a sub package. Denver knows all too well how difficult it is to defend the run out of sub packages from the Jets and Rams games.
The key to this play is a pair of deuce blocks by C/RG on the 1-tech, and LG/LT on the 3-tech.
Once again, Lindsay knows the guy to beat at the second level is the LB/S, #31. Lindsay sets him up to choose either the playside A-gap or the B-gap.
Lindsay is patient in the hole, and gives a little stutter step towards the B-gap, causing #31 to declare and step that direction. As soon as he does, Lindsay plants his foot, and accelerates through the hole.
Manipulating defenders at the second level, understanding where the soft points are, and setting up blocks are what separate good running backs from great ones. Combine this with Lindsay’s elite speed and change of direction, and he has a chance to be a very very special player.
Homework for the Coaching Staff
I know our favorite pass-time as fans is often to malign the coaching staff and second guess their decisions, but Bill Musgrave called a great game on Sunday and has been doing some good things to make Lindsay the focal point of the offense.
Along with the things they are already doing, I would love to see Denver continue to evolve their offense to further feature Lindsay and take advantage of his skills.
One of the teams that do this best, are the New Orleans Saints with Alvin Kamara.
Denver needs to go into this offseason and study the Saints usage of Ingram and Kamara and mirror that with Freeman/Lindsay. https://t.co/wmnhwtmywE— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) November 16, 2018
Here are some examples of plays and creative ways that they are utilizing Alvin Kamara that I would love to see Denver mimic.
Look familiar? pic.twitter.com/ijjKoNxqnV— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 15, 2018
Shot 2 - Now we look at Alvin Kamara, and there aren't many guys like him in the NFL. Kamara is dynamic and is moved all around the formation; a true 'satellite' back. Here are just a couple of examples of how #Saints get him the ball in the run game, leveraging his speed and AA pic.twitter.com/JjfrESnZsm— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 15, 2018
This play in particular, which was called out at 0:50 mark of the video above is one of my favorites.
#GoSaints always look to catch you off guard in the red zone, whether it be quick snaps or using a motion that looks like Kamara is just going to line up next to Brees before sprinting for a touch pass - pic.twitter.com/jbUijogBIt— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 11, 2018
Lastly, once you begin running these plays with success, and featuring Lindsay in the passing game, it begins to open things up for the rest of your offense and you can further confound the defense by using him as a decoy.
Shot 4 - So many examples on film of the #Saints using Kamara as a decoy in key situations as well. Whether it's by alignment to dictate coverage to the defense or actual pump fakes from Brees to move defenders, he helps open tings up for others on that offense. pic.twitter.com/qogHz2Nhqu— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 15, 2018
So there you have it, Broncos Country. Denver is doing a nice job with Lindsay for discovering him in the preseason, but there are nearly limitless possibilities to utilize him within this offense. I’m hoping we see more and more of those options unfold throughout the rest of the season.