Of all the reasons Theo Riddick chose to sign with the Denver Broncos, one stands above the rest ...
No longer will the seventh-year running back face Vic Fangio and his defense. After signing a one-year deal that was made official on Sunday, Riddick took part in his first practice as a member of the organization.
“It’s awesome because that defense there (with the Chicago Bears), especially as of late, has been pretty darn dominating,” Riddick told the media after Sunday’s practice. “They chip and they do so many different things. It’s great to kind of get his perspective from a defensive standpoint. Again, I am just constantly learning.”
One of the other bigger reasons Riddick chose Denver is his connection to Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins. The first three years of Riddick’s career with the Detroit Lions were spent with Modkins as his position coach.
“He is pretty blunt and he’s pretty honest,” Riddick said about Modkins with a smile. “He’s going to tell you when you’re doing something very well and he’s going to tell you when something is a little messed up. And that’s what I love — I love honesty. I was with him in Detroit for three years and he was very consistent in those areas, so to wind up with him again is going to be another fun ride.”
Prior to Riddick signing with the Broncos, we had a pretty good idea the new offense under offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello would throw to running backs. The addition hammers that point home since it’s a strength of Riddick. Denver’s offense will use the running backs in the passing game (way) more frequently. That makes the offense harder to defend but also gives Joe Flacco one more option to make plays and move the ball. Coupled with Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos now have a one-two punch in the passing game out of the backfield that could give opposing defenses fits.
“We’re always constantly talking — and that is for everyone, not just Lindsay,” Riddick said. “Again, it’s that experience thing we’re talking about. Sometimes I can just tell him, ‘hey, linebackers are bossed over here, this might be coming,’ things around that nature. Even when you’re not out, still pay attention and be attentive because you can learn at all times when you play the sport — even if it’s just scout team or watching the ones in the defense scout. We’re just always trying to constantly learn and that’s all I was really kind of enforcing.”
After just one practice, new teammate Chris Harris Jr. sees what Riddick brings to the offense.
“He looked real smooth today. He looked real smooth,” Harris said. “I didn’t see him run the ball, more like catching the rock out the backfield and running routes. But he’s definitely going to be another threat — another receiving threat at the running back that we need.”
But it’s not just about making the offense better, it’ll force the defense to defend another receiving threat out of the backfield. Not that Broncos Country needs a reminder, but the defense hasn’t exactly excelled in that area the last few years. The Riddick signing is what one could call a “win-win” for Denver.
“It does. If there’s a threat coming out of the backfield, that adds another dimension to an offense,” Fangio said. “Usually, you’re just worried about the receivers and a good tight end if the other team has one. Now you add a back in there, it’s another dimension.”
Riddick admits he was blindsided when the Lions released him, but one of the major benefits of that move is he no longer has to face Fangio and his defense.
First practice after first preseason game
This is when a team starts to feel the affects of training camp. Over two weeks of practice, how could it not? The inverse of that is the benefit this hopefully brings to the Broncos later in the season.
“Today was tough man, especially for me just traveling so much yesterday,” Harris said in response to my question. “I thought that was something that we needed. Just continue to stay in shape. We want to play good in the fourth quarter. That’s supposed to be one of our best quarters. In order to do that, we have to stick and grind through these hard (and) long practices. Fangio has a good plan for us.”
The two days off after the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday helped the guys come out sharp. One thing you often hear about training camp is it allows players to get calloused. It seems Denver has hit that point of the preseason.
“They needed it,” Fangio said in response to my question. “Then we were ready to come out and have a hard practice. This practice here, we might have had the most plays that we’ve had in any practice. I haven’t seen the total yet, but I thought they practiced well.”
Kidney stone update
If you thought Fangio manning the sidelines with a kidney stone was badass, Sunday’s update will add to the mystique. As I said on Twitter after Fangio’s news conference, I love his sense of humor.
“It’s still in there,” Fangio said. “It’s kind of moody. It acts up sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. During practice today it was fine. (Saturday) afternoon it wasn’t so fine. So it’s kind of moody.”