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‘Rolls Royce’ Freeman should have the No. 1 RB spot locked in

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The First & 10 @ 10 crew discussed the running backs competition, and at least one host believes Royce Freeman made his case to be named the starter now.

Casey Barrett - Mile High Report

Orange & Blue 760’s Monday morning broadcast of First & 10 @ 10 was a hodgepodge of game review, breaking news and roster analysis - and it was chock full of informative tidbits.

Among the most interesting conversations in my opinion was their evaluation of the Denver running backs - a position of relative weakness the past few seasons but one with a lot potential this year from several young backs.

Ryan Edwards gave his two game balls to running backs - Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay - and he went on record for a second time to say that Freeman should have the No. 1 spot locked up.

“The way he runs, he’s getting better at pass pro, he’s got back-to-back games with scoring touchdowns, great vision, one cutback,” Edwards said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s all we needed to see.”

Edwards wasn’t willing to say Freeman was the bell cow and Devontae Booker would be the third-down guy, but he definitely believes when the season is over, Freeman will have more touches on the ball than Booker.

But Vance Joseph on Monday still wasn’t willing to give that No. 1 spot to the rookie running back who has flashed in both preseason games.

“All four or five of the guys played well again. Right now, it’s an open competition still,” Joseph said Monday. “That being said, ‘Book’ and Royce have been our leads guys going in to the game, and ‘2’ has been our change-up guy. He’s a package guy, along with De’Angelo. And David had a nice run in the fourth quarter that would’ve probably sealed the game.”

But with De’angelo Henderson, Phillip Lindsay and David Williams challenging those two, the position battle for the third spot - and possibly for making the fourth roster spot versus the practice squad - are still up for grabs and should make for an interesting preseason finale in two weeks.

“Phillip Lindsay is no question a sharpie on the roster now,” Edwards said, noting the former CU Buffalo and UDFA earned his second game ball on the night. “He had a tackle on special teams, he’s second up in punt returns, he’s the starting kick returner. Phillip Lindsay has earned a roster spot, and all he can do now in Billy Musgrave’s offense is show versatility. He can run between tackles, catch in space - and he had a really, really good tackle on special teams as a gunner. C’mon man. Phillip Lindsay has lots to be excited about.”

Steve Atwater couldn’t agree more.

“He’s exciting, he’s fast, he’s explosive, he gets the crowd into it, he’s a hometown guy,” Atwater said. “Plus he works hard, so what’s not to like? I love his attitude, love his pass-catching ability. He’s going to be a weapon for us this year.”

Edwards expects Lindsay to be the No. 3 running back, pushing either Henderson or Williams to the practice squad and keeping the other as the fourth running back on the 53.

“We’ll get a lot of running in the preseason finale,” Andrew Mason said. “It could be the winner of that competition is on the 53 other guy is on the practice squad.”

Bonus: David Bruton on ComiCon, books and the terrible new helmet rule

Former Broncos’ safety and team captain the year of the Super Bowl run, David Bruton Jr., stopped by to talk with Edwards, Atwater and Mason - and they talked about everything from ComiCon to the helmet rule.

As you might have guessed, Bruton is a big fan of the first one and not-so-much on the second.

Edwards brought up the Broncos’ inability to tackle tight ends but the conversation quickly turned to the new helmet rules and how it’s making tackling impossible for the defense.

“With the tackling rules, I have no idea. Not a clue,” Bruton said on how a safety can tackle a tight end in this new penalty-happy climate. “How are you suppose to tackle? It’s an offensive-minded league in how they structure these different rules. It puts the defensive player at a disadvantage. Puts the team on defense at a disadvantage. How are you supposed to tackle?”

Unfortunately, Atwater added, there is no alternative offered by the NFL, so guys will keep tackling the way they’ve been taught with the head up, leading with the shoulder and just hope they don’t get fined.

“The offense is lowering their heads and dropping their shoulders, but we’ll be the ones to get penalized because we’re the ones meeting them face to face,” Bruton Jr. said, adding that he doesn’t think the new rule can possibly last too long in the league.

Helmet rules aside, Bruton is “always excited” to watch the young Broncos’ secondary this season.

“They are [a little banged up], but injuries are part of the game,” he said, pointing out that during the Super Bowl year, the Broncos had a lot of banged up players in the No Fly Zone, which just gave other guys a chance to shine. “Injuries happen and guys are able to step up, so we’ll see how big that depth is in the secondary for sure.”

But Bruton’s other must-see player is Freeman, a guy the retired safety is happy he doesn’t have to tackle anymore.

“I’m excited about Royce, excited to see what he’s going to do,” Bruton said. “He’s just a big bowling ball.”

And how does a player tackle a bowling ball?

“I’d probably just put my head down and shoot my shot,” Bruton said, acknowledging that he’d “probably just go ahead and catch a fine too.”

Bruton retired from the NFL in the 2017 offseason after one year with the Redskins. He was placed on season-ending IR for a concussion he suffered from

“I’m burnt-out, definitely worry about my health,” Bruton told ESPN in spring 2017. “Another season was cut short by a concussion [in 2016] - that’s six. I’m a guy who likes to use his brain. Especially back in school, I need as many brain cells as possible with all these science classes. It came down to health, and I’ve definitely had my time in the league. I’m ready to move on.”

Bruton moved on by going back to school to earn his graduate degree in physical therapy. He’s currently finishing up some pre-req science courses at CU Denver and ready to start PT school after this semester.

But in the meantime, he’s recruiting his classmates to help him continue his foundation work through Bruton’s Books of supplying reading materials to kids in disadvantaged schools.

In addition to raising money to supply books to elementary schools, Bruton’s Books is also partnering with Power Lunch, a program to provide one-on-one tutoring during lunch twice a week to kids who need extra instruction.