The Denver Broncos looked like they were dead in the water for much of the first three quarters of their Week 8 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Then Phillip Lindsay provided a much-needed spark.
Denver was trailing 24-3 with a little more than six minutes left in the third quarter when Lindsay ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run — his first score of the 2020 season — to fuel the late rally, which concluded with a game-winning 1-yard TD pass from Drew Lock to K.J. Hamler as time expired. Lindsay finished the game with 83 yards on six totes for a whopping 13.8 yards per carry.
The thing is, Lindsay’s been a hugely impactful playmaker since he entered the NFL in 2018, but it seems like people often don’t put a lot of weight behind his accomplishments, in part because he went undrafted. In fact, I believe he’s the most disrespected running back in the NFL today.
Lindsay made his mark from the start, beating out more heralded players for Denver’s RB1 job (Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker) as a rookie and earning a Pro Bowl nod. He leads the Broncos in rushing yards per game (71.8) this season after the team signed former first-round pick Melvin Gordon in March to share rushing duties. Although Lindsay’s a smaller back at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds — likely a big reason why he was overlooked as a prospect — he’s extremely explosive and has good vision. He’s able to find creases and take it the distance. People seem to expect Lindsay to flash here and there before fading with the seasons. He’s done anything but in his two-plus years in the league, posting back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing performances and a career average of 5.1 yards per carry. Lindsay’s in an exclusive club, joining Aaron Jones, Jamaal Charles and Bo Jackson as the only players since 1970 who were either undrafted or selected outside the first two rounds before going on to record 2,000-plus rush yards and an average of 5.0-plus yards per carry in their first three seasons.
The only members of the 2018 class with more rush yards and scrimmage yards than Lindsay are Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb. He ranks higher in these two categories than first-round selections Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel and Day 2 draftees Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson and Freeman, among others.
Lindsay’s battled some injuries this season, missing Weeks 2-4 with a toe sprain and jamming several toes in the win over the Chargers, but there’s optimism he’ll play in Sunday’s contest against Atlanta, per my NFL Network colleague Tom Pelissero. The third-year veteran, who’s played just 22 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2020, is currently on pace to gain 933 rush yards by the end of the season, which means a third consecutive 1,000-yard campaign is well within reach for the productive back. Just look at how he’s heated up in recent weeks. Since returning from injury in Week 6, the Broncos have gone 2-1 and Lindsay has rushed for 263 yards on 38 carries (6.9 yards per tote).
Lindsay has proven time and time again that he can carry the load as a feature back. It’s time people start giving him the respect he’s due.
Top 10 Running Backs
Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 10 each week of the 2020 season. His rankings are based on this season’s efforts alone. Here is MJD’s list heading into Week 9.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.
2020 stats: 7 games | 87 att | 431 rush yds | 4.95 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 55 rec | 556 rec yds | 3 rec TDs
Unlike Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara is earning every cent of his contract in 2020 by leading the NFL in scrimmage yards (987) entering Week 9. On pace for 2,256 scrimmage yards and 16 scrimmage TDs by season’s end, Kamara was held to 67 scrimmage yards on 17 touches against the Bucs in Week 1. I’d venture to say he’ll at least double that against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
2020 stats: 7 games | 161 att | 775 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 8rush TDs | 10 rec | 81 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
With nine games left on the Titans’ schedule, Derrick Henry has a chance to make history. He could become the fourth player in NFL history with 1,500-plus rush yards and 15-plus rush TDs in consecutive seasons, and he could become the first player to lead the league in rushing in back-to-back years since my NFL Network colleague LaDainian Tomlinson did so back in 2006-2007. It certainly seems doable for Henry when you consider this stat: He has rushed for 1,857 yards and 23 TDs in November and December in 17 such games since 2018 (both most in NFL). Buckle up, folks! This is about to get fun.
2020 stats: 6 games | 122 att | 652 rush yds | 5.3 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 14 rec | 127 rec yds | 1 rec TDs
Dalvin Cook put on a clinic against the Packers at Lambeau Field, scoring four scrimmage touchdowns in a much-needed victory for Minnesota. I’m afraid he must continue to be this good every week if the 2-5 Vikings intend on making a late playoff push.
2020 stats: 8 games | 121 att | 572 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 25 rec | 204 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
The Chiefs ran the ball all of 20 times against the New York Jets, as Andy Reid gave Patrick Mahomes the go-ahead to let it fly on Gregg Williams’ unit. This week, against a grittier Panthers squad, I’d expect Clyde Edwards-Helaire to get more than nine touches in a more balanced approach.
2020 stats: 7 games | 110 att | 498 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 18 rec | 125 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
James Conner has looked good for the Steelers this season, averaging 71.1 rush yards per game and tallying five rush TDs. The focal point of Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, Conner should feast on a Cowboys defense that ranks dead last against the run.
2020 stats: 7 games | 107 att | 481 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 4 rush TD | 27 rec | 225 rec yds | 2 rec TDs
With the Jaguars trotting out a rookie quarterback against the Houston Texans, James Robinson‘s number will likely be called a lot. The undrafted running back is averaging 100.9 scrimmage yards per game and there’s a good chance he could build on that against one of the league’s worst defenses on Sunday.
2020 stats: 7 games | 147 att | 522 rush yds | 3.55 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 18 rec | 122 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
The Raiders got 128 rush yards on 31 carries from Josh Jacobs (both career highs) in a road win over Cleveland last week. The big performance was exactly what the second-year back needed to get his confidence trending in the right direction heading into a trio of division games.
2020 stats: 8 games | 140 att | 531 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 13 rec | 77 rec yds | 0 rec TDs
While we haven’t seen Todd Gurley rip off a lot of big gains or slip tackles the way he did in 2018, he’s a scoring machine for the Falcons. Tied for second in the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns this season, Gurley has been a huge asset in the red zone.
2020 stats: 8 games | 115 att | 529 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 18 rec | 113 rec yds | 4 rec TDs
In poor weather conditions, Jacobs outperformed Kareem Hunt (by a lot) last week. Hunt hasn’t been able to keep the Browns’ rushing production anywhere close to what it was when Nick Chubb went down with an injury in Week 4. The unit is averaging a whopping 100 rush yards per game fewer over the last three games with Chubb out of the mix.
2020 stats: 8 games | 95 att | 458 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 10 rec | 120 rec yds | 1 rec TD
The Rams’ second-year back played well before exiting Sunday’s game against Miami with a thigh injury, averaging 5.9 yards per carry on eight attempts. Luckily, the Rams are on a bye ahead of a clash with division leader Seattle, so Darrell Henderson should be ready to go in Week 10.
DROPPED OUT: Aaron Jones, Packers (previously No. 5); Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (No. 8); D'Andre Swift, Lions (No. 12); Chris Carson, Seahawks (No. 13); Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (No. 14); Joe Mixon, Bengals (No. 15).
The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.
Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter @MJD.
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