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Mile High Monday: Shurmur’s history doesn’t bode well for Lindsay

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Everyone around the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in their own way. The NFL is continuing with business as usual as much as possible, with the free agency period still ongoing. The Broncos were not quite as active in this last week of the new league year, but they still were assembling pieces for the 2020 team.

I like what the Broncos have put together this offseason. The grades for their moves are all over the place, but looking at everyone they’ve added – and the price tags paid for them – I think John Elway and company are doing good work during these interesting times.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ – even in March! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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Fangio Speaks Volumes

Last week, both Elway and Vic Fangio did sit-down interviews with Alexis Perry from Broncos TV. In these interviews, both were asked about the running back situation now that Melvin Gordon has been added to the backfield. The duo were both excited about the addition of Gordon, and both men insisted that there would still be plenty of work for Phillip Lindsay.

That’s a great sentiment to have, but will that truly be the case?

I looked into the history of new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and that showed incredible clarity at the running back position. Shurmur uses one back – that’s it. Dating back to his days with the Rams, Browns, Vikings and Giants, the data shows that Shurmur prefers to use one player as a true “bell cow” back.

The term “bell cow” has been tossed around quite a bit when referring to Gordon and his potential role this season, but I don’t know if some know what that truly means. Shurmur’s history shows that one back (Steven Jackson, Trent Richardson, Dalvin Cook or Saquon Barkley) gets around 320 touches in a single season. The reserve back in each of these seasons (sometimes multiple seasons with the backs listed above) gets around 65 touches on the year.

In 2019, when Barkley missed three games and was banged up for most of the year, Shurmur’s top back had 269 touches while his backup – even with elevated play time when Barkley was hurt – only got 34 touches. This does not bode well for Lindsay’s outlook if things follow the clear pattern and trend.

If history repeats itself, then Fangio’s offense is going to run through Gordon in 2020, while Lindsay is going to be a true backup who only gets a few touches on offense per game.

Does Shurmur change his ways? Should the veteran coach change his ways? These are the questions to ponder for Broncos Country leading up to the season. I will say that with a player like Lindsay he should be open to using a second back more than he has in the past.

Shurmur does use a running-back-by-committee approach, but only when his “bell cow” back is injured. With Gordon’s history of knee problems, perhaps the Broncos should use much more of Lindsay than Shurmur’s history would suggest. This would give the team two fresh backs who could stay effective all season long. We’ll see if Shurmur has a new plan for the Broncos backfield and what that means for both Gordon and Lindsay.

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Bye Bye Wolfe

Former Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe signed with the Ravens during the weekend. A second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Wolfe was a core piece of the Broncos swarming defense that helped win Super Bowl 50. Wolfe was a fan favorite in Broncos Country and his play on the field plus presence in the locker room will be missed.

Fans loved Wolfe, and I certainly appreciated what he brought to the field and the locker room. He was always outspoken and did not hold his tongue when answering sometimes tough questions. Wolfe was always open to talking and did not shy away from the media when things weren’t going well.

Wolfe loved being here in Denver and I wish the two sides would have been able to work something out. He gives his heart and soul to the game and is the type of leader every team wants in the locker room.

I also have to point out the games that Wolfe and Miller played on the field in tandem on every snap. They had an unspoken connection where they could set themselves up for success when rushing the quarterback on twists and stunts.

It’s going to be tough to replace Wolfe. Yes, they’ll get younger and players with arguably more upside (like a Dre’Mont Jones) will be in the mix to take his spot. However, those younger options – exciting young options – are not yet the leader that Wolfe was. Add in the connection with Miller – one that would take time for a new player to build – is also going to be missed.

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Who’s on First? Nobody Cares

The race was on Friday when it came to breaking the news about Shelby Harris signing a one-year deal to remain with the Broncos. Harris agreed to a contract with $2.5 million in guaranteed money and it has a maximum value of $3.25 million. This was somewhat shocking news, especially since Harris was thought to have a market that could have paid him around $9 million annually.

Instead of a deal developing with the Colts, the team most interested in his services, Harris saw Indianapolis trade the 49ers for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and sign free agent Sheldon Day. Harris changed agents after the season in anticipation of a busy market forming for his services. When that didn’t happen, Harris changed agents again and was able to get a deal to stay in Denver.

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Run it back #96 #backagain

A post shared by Shelby Harris 🤔 (@shelbyharris75) on

When the news came through, several hard-working reporters were digging on a move that wasn’t yet officially official. Some felt the gun was jumped, others felt the deal was going to get done but was just reported early, and some feared the deal may fall through and was reported incorrectly.

I ranted on “Nick and Cecil” that night because we wanted to react to the news and couldn’t really do that until it became clear the deal was done. I don’t care who has the story first; I just want the story reported correctly.

Agent-fed information can be premature. We already saw that when some “insiders” were reporting the Broncos signed D.J. Reader when the Bengals in fact secured his services – and not necessarily with this last-minute deal some wanted to claim.

Breaking news is tough business, so I feel for all of my cohorts in the media that have to do this as part of their job. However, I don’t feel being first is of utmost importance.

Most “insiders” just talk to agents and not team representatives. Some “insiders” talk to media public relations people for their information. Very few “insiders” talk to general managers and head coaches. Those that do are national guys like Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport.

Don’t worry about who is first. Concern yourself with being correct. That should be the main emphasis for any reporter out there.

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Custom Fit

I don’t collect hats, but I have a ton of them and I wear one almost all the time. I was browsing on Facebook one morning and happened across an ad for City Locs Brand. I went to their website and found some new custom hats that looked cool, so I decided to order one.

I customized the nameplate to say “Suimmortal,” who is one of my comic book characters from my self-published title. I would love one day for there to be official merchandise of my main characters from that universe, but in the meantime while I’m still drawing, writing and creating I’ll take a custom-made hat. It’s a great conversation starter and just a cool look if you’re into that hat lifestyle.

If you own a small business or have creations to promote like I do, then I highly recommend giving City Locs a look. Do you have custom gear? Hit me up on social media and let me know!