Broncos backs Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman OK splitting carries

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio was asked early in training camp if the plan was to use running back Royce Freeman "differently" this season, his answer was "for sure."

Two games into this season and "differently" has definitely been the case. Freeman and fellow second-year running back Phillip Lindsay, a Pro Bowl player as a rookie, have split carries so far, with each having played 72 snaps. Last season, Lindsay had 192 rushing attempts to Freeman's 130, but through two games this season Lindsay has 24 and Freeman has 21.

While that figures to be a source of consternation for fantasy football nation, it is the Broncos' plan.

"They're both good running backs," Fangio said earlier this week. " ... The way the NFL goes today most teams have two guys, some have three and there will be enough touches for both of them."

Lindsay concluded his phenomenal rookie season as the Broncos' leader in carries (192), rushing yards (1,037) and rushing touchdowns (nine), while Freeman finished second in all three categories (130, 521, 5). At the moment, Freeman leads the team in rushing with 110 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, while Lindsay is at 79 and 3.3.

"In our room, it's all about winning games and making plays," Lindsay said. "People on the outside may talk about things, but we're about trying to win games and making plays to help us win games. That's it."

In first-year offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello's system, the plan was to have a healthy dose of run plays but also to get the running backs more involved in the passing game. Because the Broncos have trailed in both of their games, it hasn't quite worked out that way. They have thrown 81 passes compared to 47 rushing attempts -- 63% pass plays -- a total that could nudge down toward 60% if they hold a lead late in the game.

"I think we're just ready to work, whatever they want us to do," Freeman said. "As far the running backs as a group … I think we all have things in our experiences that can make each other better. I think we want everybody to succeed. You always want to play with confidence and want to carry the ball, but as a group we know we have a lot of guys who can make plays."

With plenty of inexperience at wide receiver -- Emmanuel Sanders is the only player in the group who had played more than 16 games in his career before the season opened -- and rookie tight end Noah Fant still learning, Lindsay and Freeman should continue to be involved in the passing game.

The wild card may come six games from now when the Broncos will have to make a decision on running back Theo Riddick, who went to injured reserve with a shoulder injury when rosters went to 53 players. Riddick has four career 50-catch seasons and was signed in the preseason because of his ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

But that's all still down the road a bit as the Broncos continue their share-the-load approach in the backfield.

"That's how we're going to get these big gains and stuff," is how Lindsay has put it. "Everybody has to touch the ball. The more people that touch the ball, you don't go eight in the box. When everybody spreads out, it's going to be easier for me, it's going to help the receivers out and we all have to be in it together. It's about winning games. I'm going to get mine, Royce is going to get his, the receivers are going to get theirs and Joe [Flacco] is definitely going to get his. We just have to help each other out."