By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – It’s the Phillip Lindsay Show once more.
The Denver Broncos announced their inactives for Sunday’s home game versus the Houston Texans, a list headlined by starting running back Royce Freeman, to no surprise. The rookie came into Week 9 with a questionable tag due to a high ankle sprain, though he was truly on the doubtful side.
The rest of Denver’s inactives four injured players (cornerback Bradley Roby, inside linebacker Brandon Marshall, safety Darian Stewart, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton) and two healthy scratches (offensive linemen Sam Jones, Nico Falah).
With Freeman out, Lindsay will absorb the majority of carries against Houston. In his Week 8 start, the undrafted sensation totaled 112 yards (95 rushing, 17 receiving) and a touchdown. Devontae Booker, coming off his best outing of the season (78 yards on nine totes), will serve as Lindsay’s direct backup.
Rather than rush Freeman back from his two-game hiatus, the Broncos are taking a safer-than-sorry approach with the bye week upcoming. Head coach Vance Joseph on Friday strongly intimated the third-round RB would sit another week.
“I think he’s getting better fast, but I think for the long haul of the season, sitting him one more week may help,” he said. “But, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He’s getting [better] really fast, so if he’s ready to go, he will go.”
None of the aforementioned hurt players this week as they battled their respective issues. Roby was in a walking boot following last Sunday’s loss to Kansas City; Marshall is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee; Stewart remains sidelined due to a neck stringer; and Hamilton is hobbled by an MCL sprain.
Tramaine Brock will start for Roby, opposite Chris Harris Jr., with Adam Jones picking up the nickel corner slack. Rookie Isaac Yiadom should also have a bigger role.
Stewart’s absence opens the door for Su’a Cravens, who will make his regular season debut after spending the first eight games on injured reserve. He’ll rotate with Will Parks as the bookend to Justin Simmons. Cravens has no limitations and can play all three downs, according to Joseph, who has “no concern” about facing Houston’s offense.
“We have guys that are capable,” he said. “At corner, we’ve got two veterans in [Tramaine] Brock and Adam Jones, along with Isaac [Yiadom]. Brock’s played really well the last two weeks, so I’ve been really impressed with him. Adam Jones is healthy now, so I have no concerns there. I thought [S] Justin [Simmons] played really well last week and I thought [S Will] Parks had his moments where he did some good stuff, but also had some bad plays. He’ll learn from those. [S] Dymonte Thomas is here and [S] Shamarko Thomas, so we’ve got capable guys. We really do.”
With Marshall sidelined, rookie Josey Jewell will draw the start. Fellow first-year ILB Alexander Johnson is active for his NFL debut, as well.
Denver promoted River Cracraft from the practice (and cut Isaiah McKenzie) to reinforce the Demaryius Thomas-less WR corps. They’ll dress at least four versus Houston: Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Cracraft.
Right tackle Jared Veldheer, who missed the last four weeks, is fully recovered from his knee injury and will start, sending Billy Turner back to the bench. Joseph hinted that Veldheer could replace struggling LT Garett Bolles if the need arises.
“We have some options there with Jared playing at a high level,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Additionally, outside linebacker Shane Ray (high ankle sprain), sidelined the last two games, is active. He’s the direct backup to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.