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10 Burning Questions for Camp: What will be the right workload for the running backs?


For a glimpse at an ideal future of how the Broncos will split their running-back duties, take a glance at the recent past.

Specifically, go back to the first seven games of the 2018 season, when Royce Freeman was healthy and nearly equal to Phillip Lindsay in terms of total touches, with Devontae Booker having the rest, primarily on receptions.

In those seven weeks, Lindsay had 90 touches -- 75 rushes and 15 receptions -- for an average of 12.9 per game. Freeman had 74 touches -- 71 carries and three catches -- to average 10.6 per game. Booker had 29 touches -- 13 rushes and 16 receptions -- for an average of 4.1 per game.

Freeman's ankle sprain in the Week 7 win over Arizona knocked that balance out of whack, and while Lindsay provided his share of explosive plays, the Broncos' overall production from their three running backs was never quite the same.

Here's how it compares:

Games 1-7 for Lindsay, Freeman and Booker:

  • 5.0 yards per carry
  • 7.6 yards per reception
  • 1 first down every 3.5 touches

Games 8-16 for them:

  • 4.8 yards per carry
  • 6.2 yards per reception
  • 1 first down every 4.0 touches

The difference was pronounced for Freeman, whose per-carry average dropped from 4.4 yards before the injury to 3.6 after it.

Lindsay's recovery from wrist surgery is important, and it is one of the key stories of the summer. The Broncos need him to run with the same explosiveness and vigor as he did last year.

But keeping Freeman healthy can't be underestimated, either. The Broncos were at their best when those two then-rookies were effectively 1 and 1-A running backs.

If Lindsay and Freeman stay healthy and each accounts for at least 38 percent of the overall touches by Broncos running backs -- just like they did in Weeks 1-7 of last year -- Denver should have the balance and long-term effectiveness it needs.


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