Royce Freeman was named the Denver Broncos starting running back heading into their Week 1 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks making him the first Broncos’ rookie running back to Start Week 1 since Terrell Davis did it in 1995.
Freeman has looked every bit the part of a starting-caliber running back through training camp and the preseason, which has given coaches the confidence to put him at the front with Devontae Booker being their third down option.
“Royce Freeman is the starting running back for our football team,” Head Coach Vance Joseph said on Monday. “That being said, it’s going to be by packages, also. Royce is our leading runner, but on third downs you’ll probably see [Devontae] Booker, and obviously having a package for Phillip [Lindsay] is going to be important to each gameplan we have each week.”
It appears the only reason it took so long for Freeman to ascend to the top of the depth chart at running back was the coaching staff waiting to see how well he did in pass protection. Through the preseason, Freeman showed that his rookie awareness was good enough to alleviate those concerns.
“First of all, his maturity,” Joseph added. “He can carry the load from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint. He was really good in pass pro, so that’s your biggest worry about having a young halfback playing with a veteran quarterback—it’s the pass-pro issues. He’s shown the IQ and the maturity to be a great pass-pro guy, on third downs especially.”
Joining a Pro Football Hall of Famer like Terrell Davis as the last rookie running back in Denver to earn a start in Week 1 is quite the honor. Davis went on to rush for 1,117 yards in 14 games, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt and scoring 8 total touchdowns in his rookie year.
Of course, we all know he then went on the greatest three-year run a running back has ever had with 5,296 yards and 53 total touchdowns in the regular season from 1996-98.
Royce Freeman will become the Broncos' first rookie running back to start the season opener since? Knowshon Moreno in 2009? Nope. Clinton Portis in 2002? No. Mike Anderson in 2000? No. Freeman will be the first since Terrell Davis in 1995. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 3, 2018
Freeman may not have that kind of career arch, but the fact that he has made it this far shows how ready his is for the NFL.
“You can’t get too ahead of yourself thinking about things like that,” Freeman said of being named the starter. “Everybody is here at the NFL—the highest level—and you have to tell yourself that you belong. You have to go out there and you have to prove every day.”
That opening quote was backed up again and again as Freeman asserted his desire to work hard and get better each and every week.
“It’s an honor,” Freeman added. “To be named a starter for a football team is definitely something that means a lot to me. Now, I just have to go out there and work hard.”