ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For much of this season, the questions surrounding Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay have been: How can the Broncos get him the ball more, and what would that look like if they did?
The answers aren't easy, but the gold standard for how a team can get its running back involved in the offense will be on display Sunday when the New Orleans Saints and running back Alvin Kamara visit Empower Field at Mile High (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).
Lindsay is not Kamara. Few, if any, teams this side of Christian McCaffrey and the Carolina Panthers have anyone like the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Kamara, who last week became the first player in NFL history to record at least 500 yards rushing and at least 500 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons in the league.
Saints backup quarterback Jameis Winston has described Kamara, a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, simply as "an incredible talent, person and teammate." The Saints use Kamara in a wide variety of ways to influence defenses and to create first downs, touchdowns and repetitive migraines in defensive coordinators. He leads the Saints in carries (117), rushing yards (531), receptions (67), receiving yards (648) and total touchdowns (12).
Lindsay is nowhere near that workload, nor should he be with Melvin Gordon also on the roster. But getting Lindsay a little more involved might spice things up for an offense that is currently 27th in scoring, 22nd in yards per games and 15th in rushing yards per game. Lindsay has had just two games this season with more than 10 carries and three games in which he has not been targeted at all in the passing game.
"You can't sit here and cry over it," Lindsay said in recent weeks. "You've just got to take advantage of the reps you're getting. The fact is that when you get an opportunity, take advantage of it. When you sit there and wait for your opportunity, you can't do nothing about it. You've got two really good running backs, and hopefully they find ways to get us more involved. If not, you just have to wait for your time."
Lindsay has missed three games and the second halves of two others with injuries this season (a toe injury to go with the concussion), which hasn't helped matters. The Broncos have also been apt to check out of the run game when they've gotten behind -- and they have gotten behind plenty, having not held the lead in five of their six losses.
And, as some opposing personnel evaluators have pointed out, Lindsay has dropped a pass or three.
But it's also clear the Broncos are better when Lindsay gets the ball. In the two games in which he had more than 10 carries, the Broncos won. Despite missing 14 quarters of action, Lindsay still has 11 of team's 31 carries of at least 10 yards, including three in the Broncos' win last Sunday over the Miami Dolphins. His 55-yard touchdown run was the first spark of their comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and it was one of just six carries in the game.
"You can hand it to him, obviously, that's one, and then there's opportunities for him to catch the ball, either as a check down or as a primary," is how Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has put it. "... I think it's good if Phillip touches the ball, and we'll keep trying to get it to him."
The Broncos' win over the Dolphins on Sunday was as close to the blend Denver has hoped for this season when it comes to Lindsay, Gordon, the team's run game and the edge it would like to play with on offense. With an array of power run plays, often with left tackle Garett Bolles and left guard Dalton Risner pulling out in front, the Broncos pounded out a season-high 189 rushing yards. Gordon rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries as Lindsay rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries. It was the first game since the Broncos' Week 5 win over the New England Patriots, and only the second time of the season, that they held a lead for at least 70% of the game.
"I'd always like the early lead, that's for damn sure," said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. "... When you're running it decently and you're playing good defense, the whole complexion of the game is different. You're not feeling like offensively, 'If we don't score, we're in trouble' or you have to throw it every play."