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Just one year ago Jonathan Taylor was coming off a breakout season that saw him lead the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. The 2021 season looked like a potential changing of the guard for the title of best running back in the league, with Taylor dethroning Tennessee’s Derrick Henry.

If ’21 was the top of the mountain, the 2022 campaign was as close to rock bottom as you can get. The worst part? Most of it wasn’t Taylor’s fault. Sure he dealt with injuries, but it wasn’t like he regressed as a talent. The offensive line play was horrific, which went hand in hand with the abysmal play at quarterback.

Matt Ryan not only wasn’t the missing piece the Colts thought he would be, but he was such a liability that opposing defenses could key on the running game knowing he wasn’t a real threat to beat them in the passing game.

That ultimately limited Taylor and the entire running back room of the Indianapolis Colts.

Sometimes we look at quarterbacks and running backs as being on their own and not having reliance on one another. Yes, both of those positions are led by elite level talent in the NFL, but those two positions can only dominate when both are doing enough to keep a defense guessing.

Look at the Titans. Sure, Derrick Henry is an elite level running back, but if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t keep the opposing defense on it’s toes then the opponent will exclusively key on Henry and his numbers will drop.

That exact scenario panned out for Colts running backs last year and…well…we all saw how the offense produced as a one dimensional train wreck.

2023 presents reasons for optimism about the running game returning to form because Jonathan Taylor is expected to be 100%. Plus, the o-line is due for a bounce back…right?

For the sake of argument, let’s say it’s only a 50% improvement in the trenches this season. That, combined with a fresh look at quarterback and a shiny new offensive game plan, should bring Taylor back to the dominance he enjoyed in ’21.

That dominance, however, is key for more than just the Colts’ team goals next season. An elite level Jonathan Taylor is paramount to the development of Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Even if he doesn’t start right away, with so much on the plate of Richardson as a first year quarterback a reliable game changing weapon in the backfield will help ease that pressure whenever he plays.

Being able to take breath and hand the ball off to Taylor is the ultimate safety valve when trying to be in command of an NFL offense for the first time.

Plus, the idea of players as athletic and talented as Richardson and Taylor ready to attack will one day give nightmares to defensive coordinators around the league. Based on the praise JT gave Richardson early this week, he knows full well just how scary they could be together.

If by chance it’s Gardner Minshew out there Week 1 there’s should still be a level of confidence that the veteran will be able to do enough to keep defenses honest when planning for Taylor.

Anyway we look at the Colts offense in 2023, the initial starting point for success is a return to form for Jonathan Taylor. His ability to rack up yards and take pressure off those arounds him will benefit Colts quarterbacks this season.

Whether that benefit goes to Richardson or Minshew first remains to be seen.

Tuesday on The Fan Midday Show The Dean Mike Chappell of Fox 59 and CBS 4 joined to give his thoughts on the importance of Jonathan Taylor in 2023.

Chappy also spoke with us about:

  • what he saw out of Anthony Richardson at Colts rookie mini camp
  • how he will know when Richardson is making the progress necessary to start right away
  • if there’s any influence on the Colts decision making from the strength of schedule in 2023
  • the way Colts veterans, including Jonathan Taylor have expressed their support of Richardson

Listen to our full conversation with The Dean Mike Chappell below and don’t miss The Fan Midday Show, weekdays 12-3pm Eastern on 93.5 & 107.5 The Fan.

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