ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Lions released Theo Riddick ahead of training camp, the sixth-year veteran was blindsided.
“I was, to be honest with you,” said Riddick on Sunday after his first practice with the Broncos, who signed him this weekend. “But it’s the name of the game.”
And in that game, the next step is to prove Detroit wrong.
“It was no shock to me, but it kind of sparked that fire in you — and it’s lit,” Riddick said.
Now, the Broncos will see if Riddick can add a spark to their offense.
Head Coach Vic Fangio said the Broncos will look to capitalize on Riddick’s primary skill set, which is catching passes out of the backfield.
“Well right now he’s going to get thrown in the mix,” Fangio said. “He’s had a good history in his career of being a good receiver out of the backfield and a good threat in that way. So obviously we’ll see if we can fit him in that way and [if] he still has that going for him. He’s been a good receiver. I’ve seen him play the last four years in the same division. He had a couple good routes here today.”
Riddick averaged 7.9 yards per reception during his first six seasons and ranks second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns by a running back since 2013. He also ranks third in receptions and fourth in receiving yards by running backs since he entered the league.
“I think it all kind of started back in college,” Riddick said of his receiving skills. “I played receiver for quite some time, so it’s kind of natural to me, to be honest with you. I was always able to read coverages on the fly, so that helps as well. Again, I’ve just been very talented in terms of catching the ball and just took it and ran with it.”
Fangio knows Riddick well. The then-Bears defensive coordinator faced Riddick seven times during Fangio’s four seasons in Chicago.
Last season, Riddick caught 13 passes on 14 targets for 108 yards in his two games against the Bears.
“If there’s a threat coming out of the backfield, that adds another dimension to an offense,” Fangio said Sunday. “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.”
And Riddick thinks he can do more than just bring his own talent to the offense. As he mentioned Sunday, he believes he can help Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman elevate their games.
“[Denver is] going to utilize my talents and my strengths,” Riddick said. “Again, I’ve got a lot of experience being in the game for six years. We’ve got a young room, very talented. But hopefully I can help them out in terms of things they can see before it happens. You only can get that from experience, so hopefully it comes in handy.”
COULD’VE BEEN A CHAMP
As Fangio headed into his first season as defensive coordinator for the Colts, he nearly added a future Hall of Famer to his secondary.
The Colts, Fangio explained Sunday, were all set to take Champ Bailey with the fourth-overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. But a trade just hours before the draft sent Marshall Faulk to the Rams and left Indianapolis scrambling to shore up their run game. Instead, Indianapolis selected Edgerrin James, who is no slouch himself. James started his career with the Colts and is a three-time Hall of Fame finalist.
Fangio, though, would have relished the opportunity to coach Bailey.
“It was close to where I had Champ, which would’ve been nice,” Fangio said.
Linebacker Joe Jones will “definitely be out for a few weeks,” Fangio said Sunday.
The Broncos’ coach said he couldn’t say more about the Northwestern product, who exited Thursday’s game against Atlanta.
Linebacker Aaron Wallace (hamstring) and wide receiver Jamarius Way (personal reasons) were among the players to miss practice.
EVALUATING THURSDAY NIGHT
Rookies Dre’Mont Jones and Malik Reed both earned acknowledgment from their coach when Fangio was asked if anyone stood out to him on film from Thursday’s game against Atlanta.
“The guys that played good, I was thinking they would,” Fangio said. "[Jones] played good in the D-line. … Malik Reed had some good plays. But overall, I thought the guys played well, especially on the defensive side. Offensively, I thought our line played good overall even though the stats don’t bear that. We’ve just got to throw it and catch it better offensively.”