INDIANAPOLIS — Cleaning out the Broncos- and NFL-related notebook from a week at the Scouting Combine:
Counting on Freeman. Phillip Lindsay became the Broncos’ no-doubt No. 1 running back after Royce Freeman sustained a Week 7 ankle sprain. Lindsay rushed for 1,037 yards before sustaining a wrist injury that required surgery.
The Broncos need Freeman, last year’s third-round pick, to take a jump. He had six explosive rushes (gains of at least 12 yards) in the first five games, but only one thereafter.
“We feel really good about both of them,” general manager John Elway said. “I think they’re a good combination and change of pace. We have big plans for Phillip as well as Royce to get them both involved in the passing game as well as the run game.”
Lindsay had 35 catches and Freeman 14 last year.
Elway on Scangarello. Elway and the Broncos moved on from Gary Kubiak as an option for offensive coordinator but stayed in the Shanahan coaching tree by hiring Rich Scangarello, who worked three years with and for Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta and San Francisco.
“I like the system; it’s a system I’m familiar with,” Elway said. “Mike (Shanahan) started it and Kyle has taken it to the next level and evolved it. The success Kyle’s had wherever he’s been and to have Rich studying underneath Kyle is excellent.”
Cravens’ future. Safety Su’a Cravens missed the first half of 2018 (knee surgery) and was a healthy scratch for the final three games. Does he have a future with the Broncos?
“It’s up to him,” Elway said. “He’ll have a chance to make the football team so we’ll see what he does.”
The Broncos have Justin Simmons, Darian Stewart and Will Parks — the three safeties who ended last year in the primary sub-package — under contract for 2019.
Adding help. Kubiak was a senior personnel advisor for the Broncos in 2018; does his departure mean the Broncos are in the market for a replacement?
“We evaluate that after the draft so we have not looked at filling that position at this point in time,” Elway said.
The contracts of most NFL scouts/front-office types run through the end of the draft season. But minus Tom Heckert, who passed away last summer, and Kubiak, now with the Minnesota Vikings, adding a set of veteran eyes could be beneficial.
Helping out. Among the NFL coaches assisting with the on-field drills Saturday was Broncos receivers coach Zach Azzanni.
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Impressed with Risner. Kansas State running back Alex Barnes delivered high praise for teammate Dalton Risner, the right tackle from Wiggins, Colo.
“Toughness. Smarts. Grit,” Barnes said. “Everything you want in a football player. He’s the toughest o-lineman in this class. That’s for sure.”
Risner, who could be a late first-round choice, lifted the 225-pound bar 23 times. A center (one year) and right tackle (three years) in college, Risner was moved around the line during Senior Bowl Week.
“I felt like the Senior Bowl was a (heckuva) week for me,” Risner said. “I did some great work down there in terms of meshing with the o-line, being a leader and going against the top talent in the nation.”
Popular player. Colorado State receiver Bisi Johnson (Bear Creek High School alum) was available to the media Friday at the same time as Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. But Johnson still drew a crowd to his table.
Wisconsin reporters wanted to ask Johnson about new Green Bay Packers receivers coach Alvis Whitted, who was Johnson’s position coach at CSU.
“Great dude, great coach,” Johnson said. “He really taught me a lot of life lessons and how to ball on the field. He’s not only a coach, he’s also there to coach you in life. He’s not your friend. He knows the difference between being your friend and your coach.”
Switching positions. Teams can request players at the Combine work at a second position. Per the league, this weekend’s list: Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (asked to work at tight end), quarterback Trace McSorley (defensive back), running back Devin Singletary (receiver), receiver Hakeem Butler (tight end), defensive tackle Ed Oliver (linebacker) and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones (linebacker).
Oliver is the headliner. By doing linebacker drills, teams with a 3-4 defensive front can see how he drops into coverage and rushes from the edge. Oliver will be a first-round pick.
Jackson on the block. ESPN reported Saturday that Jacksonville is shopping defensive tackle Malik Jackson and running back Carlos Hyde.
Hyde has no value. Jackson, though, remains a productive player in a 4-3 scheme. But he has a $15 million salary-cap number this year (the Jaguars can create $11 million of space by trading Jackson). A member of the Broncos’ 2015 Super Bowl team, Jackson should be attractive for a Day 3 pick contingent on him re-working his contract.
Scouting the AAF. Many executives were asked if they were monitoring the new AAF for talent. The best line came from the Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin.
“It’s football so we’re going to look at it,” Tobin said. “We’re going to determine if there’s anybody there that can help our team. (Scouts) are going to evaluate it like they do any other player. They’re going to evaluate the traits and the production.”