According to multiple reports, the Houston Texans released veteran running back Phillip Lindsay on Tuesday afternoon. The move serves as a minor surprise given the general lack of talent the Texans possess in their running back room. The writing was however perhaps on the wall after Lindsay carried the football on just one occasion in Houston's shocking Week 12 win over their AFC South rival Tennessee Titans. Lindsay's inability to work his way into the rotation despite the weather elements in that game signals how little head coach David Culley and staff valued his skill set. For comparative purposes, veteran running back Rex Burkhead carried the ball 18 times on Sunday and David Johnson received 16 touches as a runner and pass-catcher.
How the mighty have fallen. A former undrafted free agent out of Colorado, the 5-foot-8 Lindsay began his professional career in incredibly impressive fashion. Lindsay burst onto the scene by rushing for 1,037 yards as a rookie and followed that up with an equally impressive sophomore campaign that saw him surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. It’s unfortunately been all downhill since and Lindsay will now look to take advantage of his next opportunity.
Lindsay is now subject to the NFL waivers claim process. With that in mind, these three teams should submit claims in hopes of securing Lindsay's services.
Tennessee's running game continues to struggle in the wake of the catastrophic injury suffered by superstar running back Derrick Henry. Since being forced to take the field without their workhorse in the backfield, the Titans have not had a single ball-carrier top more than 40 rushing yards in a single contest. The Titans have already called upon four running backs in Henry's absence, including three players who were not on the roster when Henry last carried the ball: Adrian Peterson, D'Onta Foreman and the recently promoted Dontrell Hilliard. Tennessee has opted to rely on a plodding committee, as no player has been able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
If claimed by Tennessee, Lindsay would remain in the AFC South and join a position room that clearly lacks high-end talent. Lindsay would immediately compete for snaps in an offense that desperately needs to be more productive than it’s been in recent showings. Lindsay would likely welcome the opportunity to play for a playoff contender while running behind a much more formidable offensive line than the one he encountered in Houston.
Arizona suffered a blow when they lost do-it-all running back Chase Edmonds for the foreseeable future. An ankle injury unfortunately landed Edmonds on injured reserve and he is ineligible to return until the Cardinals' Week 14 crucial showdown against their division rival Los Angeles Rams.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler James Conner carried the load in Edmonds' absence in Arizona's Week 11 win over the Seattle Seahawks, carrying the football a healthy 21 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Conner's three yards per carry leaves something to be desired and his longest run of the day went for just eight yards. Conner has scored an impressive 12 touchdowns in 2021 but has historically been more effective when involved in a timeshare. Adding Lindsay to the fold would help Arizona's rushing attack stay above water until Edmonds returns to the field. Should Arizona claim Lindsay, he would be reunited with Vance Joseph, the Cardinals' current defensive coordinator who served as Lindsay's head coach during his exciting rookie campaign.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
You'd be hard-pressed to find a running back room that has been more decimated by injury than the one in San Francisco. Elijah Mitchell had an incredible stretch while operating as Kyle Shanahan's lead back from Week 7 through 10, totaling an impressive 371 rushing yards throughout that timeframe. Mitchell unfortunately missed San Francisco's Week 11 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and remains questionable with a finger injury going forward. Mitchell was joined on the sidelines by fellow running back JaMycal Hasty, who is currently hampered by an ankle injury.
That essentially leaves Jeff Wilson Jr. and rookie third-round pick Trey Sermon as the two remaining backs in the backfield. Much like his father did, Shanahan has built a reputation for being capable of getting a tremendous amount of production out of unheralded ball-carriers. Lindsay would provide Shanahan with an exciting skill-set to implement into his running back-friendly scheme. It's worth noting that Lindsay played for current 49ers offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, who was Denver's offensive coordinator in 2019.