DENVER — When the Broncos chose to add a running back, it widened eyes. They already had a Pro Bowler in Phillip Lindsay, and didn't they have more pressing needs?
While Lindsay's story remains remarkable — he is the first undrafted player in NFL history to begin a career with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons — it could not cover a troubling statistic. The Broncos ranked 20th on the ground last season at 103.9 yards per game. The onus hardly falls on Lindsay alone, but it spoke of a potential need that was revealed with a deeper dive into the numbers. The Broncos' converted 3rd-and-1 situations with 68 percent success, 20th-best in the NFL. However, they only rushed for eight first downs in these spots, 25th overall.
Which brings us to Sunday's topic: Melvin Gordon.
The Broncos signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract with $13.5 million guaranteed. Follow the money and it figures to lead Gordon to the top of the depth chart. Gordon brings an interesting skill set. He was second best in the league last season against eight men in the box, and has a nose for the goal line (47 touchdowns over the last four seasons).
However, Lindsay is not conceding his spot -- "I don't need anyone to motivate me," he said -- and Gordon embraces the battle.
"(Our relationship) is going well and we’re competing. That’s the thing -- we’ll make each other better. Out here, I’m trying to be the best Melvin Gordon I can be, working on everything," Gordon said after Sunday's practice. "When I get done with a run, I ask them and I ask (running backs coach) Curtis (Modkins), ‘Do you see anything I can do better?’ We’re playing unselfishly right now, and we’re both trying to help each other get better. At the end of the day, we’re still competing and trying to be the guy.”
Gordon and Lindsay complement each other on first glace: Gordon is 6-1, 215, while Lindsay goes 5-8, 195. Gordon is more of a bruiser, though he has speed. Lindsay is a lightning bolt, owning a 4.39 40.
So Lindsay could serve as the third down weapon? Not exactly. Gordon has averaged 50 receptions over the past three seasons. Lindsay sits at 35. They are both best when consistently on the field. Where does that leave them? Maybe Gordon receives two series, and Lindsay gets one, initially. None of this is sketched in stone.
What is? Gordon's desire to play, and get back on the rails after a holdout and lost snaps to Austin Ekeler spoiled his stats last season (908 yards from scrimmage, but only 3.8 yards per carry on 612 yards rushing).
"I feel like I’m every down back. That’s how I should feel. I’ve always felt like that. I never like to get off the field unless I have to. The altitude is a little different around here. I’ve got to build up my wind a little bit. But, no back should like getting off the field and every back should feel like they’re a three-down guy. That’s how I try to carry myself and I’m pretty prideful in that," Gordon said. "I kind of want to excel and have more catches this year. I’m trying to be better and I’m trying to have this be my best year. I think I have a great quarterback for it, we’re young and we have young talent. If we come together and play well, especially with our quarterback, we should be fine.”
Left guard Dalton Risner believes the Broncos will improve on the ground. The offensive line features a new right guard in Graham Glasgow, and is continuing to figure out the center spot with Austin Schlottmann, Patrick Morris and promising rookie Lloyd Cushenberry.
"Dog mentality, different feel, different year," Risner told Denver7. "We will be physical upfront. But we've got work to do though."
Courtland Sutton struggled with drops early in practice, but found his traction. He caught a beautiful, long touchdown pass down the sideline from Drew Lock. ... Tight end Noah Fant looks bigger and is playing that way. Seeing him catch multiple passes across the middle drives home the point that he will easily exceed last season's 40 receptions and three touchdowns. ... Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel fought accuracy issues Sunday. One miscommunication on a route with Jerry Jeudy led to a pick six by cornerback De'Vante Bausby, who started in the nickel defense. ... Defense won the day from interceptions to forced drops to a pass blocked by Shelby Harris. ... Play of the day? How about former CSU star linebacker Josh Watson making a leaping pick on a Brett Rypien pass that ricocheted off rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam during 7-on-7 work. ... Todd Davis showed speed tracking receiving DaeSean Hamilton down the middle of the field to create an incompletion. ... Receiver Juwann Winfree worked on the side as he deals with a hamstring injury.