INDIANAPOLIS – The trajectory of Jonathan Taylor’s first season in the NFL hasn’t been as seamless as he had it at Wisconsin.
Part of that is, simply, life in professional football.
But part of the reason why the Colts drafted Taylor was for his character—and not just his 230-pound frame that still can run 4.38 in the 40-yard.
When adversity hits, how does one react?
Some adversity has hit Taylor this season, as he lost playing time while struggling to find consistent production, with November games of averaging 2.0 and 1.7 yards per carry. He also had to miss a game due to being a high-close COVID-19 contact.
As Taylor began his 10th game this season, calling his rookie season a ‘disappointment’ would have been pretty accurate.
Starting with Taylor’s second half effort against the Packers though, the Colts have a back that needs to be featured as a workhorse to close out this season.
“I do (sense an emergence from Taylor) and just because of his work ethic, because of his makeup,” Frank Reich says. “I really feel like these last two games for him, he’s running very decisive, very aggressive, with a lot of confidence and I think he’s seeing it well. We just have to continue to build on that.”
Running back rotation is often very fluid throughout a 16-game NFL season.
Well, as the Colts enter a critical final quarter of the season, the hot back right now is Taylor.
And it’s not simply based off his pure production. While that’s notable (Taylor has run for 163 yards on 28 carries in his last 6 quarters on the field), it’s been consistent production—5.8 yards per carry—with Taylor’s long carry 24 yards.
It’s also with how Taylor is running.
He’s forcing more missed tackles. He is looking more decisive in his reads. And he’s continuing to be reliable out of the backfield (29 catches on 30 targets).
“There’s a lot of times, especially early in the year, where you’ll have a small hole, you kind of got to splice it instead of running through it, trying to get in stride,” Taylor said after his season-high 135 yards from scrimmage against the Texans. “You got to splice it. Once you get into the open, you can open up your stride.
“That’s just something that I’ve really been conscious of in this second half of the year—when you see a hole, splice it. Once you get into the open field, you can kind of open up.”
Taylor agrees that the Colts have put him in more ‘power’ situations here as of late and that’s led to him finding his best stretch of the season.
When Marlon Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1, the Colts initially thought Taylor would carry more of that lead back role.
But it wasn’t that seamless for Taylor.
However, when the Colts have needed for a back to emerge in wins over the Packers and Texans, it’s been the rookie stepping up.
Taylor deserves the RB1 call right now.
Yes, the Colts like to rotate backs, but seeing Taylor get 1 carry in a 40-minute stretch (like was the case against the Texans) cannot be the norm here in December.
It’s time for Taylor to get another shot as this team’s feature back.