Following in the footsteps of Edgerrin James, Jonathan Taylor is slowly getting closer to being the next star of the Indianapolis Colts RB – Indianapolis Colts Blog

November 4, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS – The list of runners grew steadily year after year.

Donald Brown. Trent Richardson. Frank Gore. Marlon Mack.

Each tried to be the next dominant running back for the Indianapolis Colts, but failed for a variety of reasons. Neither of them could be the running back rival defenses feared the same way they did Hall of Famer Edgerrin James during his seven seasons with the organization.

Jonathan Taylor is currently taking his turn, and the results so far have many inside and outside the organization believe that the second-year running back is their best player at that position since James.

“I’m speaking as an analyst and also as a former team player; he’s the best since Edge,” said former Colts center and current ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday. “I think what he offers is that every play could have a touchdown. Whether it’s on screen play, on a checkdown, giving it to him between tackles or on the outside. Every play could potentially go home.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay has never been one to hold back his expectations (he has predicted multiple Super Bowl titles this decade). Which is why he was unfazed as he sat behind a table on a hot and humid day during training camp when he talked about his featured runner.

“You don’t want to put too much on a young back and that sort of thing, but Jonathan, if you dream of a gold [Hall of Fame] jacket at night, he’s having the right dream because there is a reality there and a lot has to happen, ”Irsay said in August. “… You can’t put limits on what he can do. Has it all. He has the power, he has the speed. He is a special, special player. “

The Colts’ best running back since Edgerrin James?

As the Colts (3-5) face the New York Jets on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox / NFL Network), it’s too early to think of Taylor donning a gold jacket in Canton, Ohio. . For now, the Colts are embracing and enjoying what he has accomplished so far in the NFL. Going back to 1970, Taylor’s 1,818 rushing yards in 23 games is the second in franchise history behind just James’s 2,335 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“Running backs are really hard to place and understand in the NFL,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “It seems like those must-see guys or the Derrick Henrys don’t come around very often. You are always looking for them, always looking for the perfect fit.

“The Colts have had a number of really good running backs, but getting back that franchise Hall of Fame isn’t that easy. I think Jonathan is showing signs of being, and you hope he’s the long-term answer. Always worried about injuries with runners, but without that, it’s going to be great. “

Taylor’s bright, smiling and outgoing personality, combined with his power and speed, have led to many successes on and off the field.

In fact, he has arguably been the best running back in the NFL this season, not named Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans running back who leads the league in rushing runs.

Taylor leads the league with 6.4 yards of hitting per touch (minimum 75). And despite having the fifth-most runs in the NFL, he’s second only to Henry in rushing yards (937/649), yards after contact (496/404) and yards from scrimmage (1,091 / 914 ).

However, Henry’s season ended due to a foot injury sustained against the Colts in Week 8. That means Taylor is now arguably the best active running back in the NFL.

“They said I could be one of the best in college, but that was just my way of thinking … how can I be the best version of myself at each and every level?” Taylor said. “At the high school level, at the college level and now at the NFL level because it doesn’t matter how many yards you had last week or how many touchdowns you had last week. How many yards or touchdowns did you have this week, in this game? How can you be the best every week? “

From a slow start to the elite

The transition to being in the same category as some of today’s elite running backs like Henry, Ezekiel Elliott and Nick Chubb has not been easy for Taylor.

He entered his rookie season in 2020 as a backup for Mack. That lasted less than a full game because Mack tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1. Taylor then had to find out that he was no longer in Wisconsin, where he just had to grab the ball and run.

The NFL was different.

Taylor had to be patient, read the blocks and wait for the running lane to open, then leave. It was a struggle for Taylor, as he began losing plays to Nyheim Hines for part of the season. But Taylor closed out his rookie season by rushing for 741 yards in the last five games to finish with 1,169 yards on the season.

In Year 2, Taylor has added a new dimension, expanding his role in the passing game. In addition to 649 rushing yards, he is second on the team in receiving yards with 265. That includes three plays of at least 20 yards, like the screen pass he caught for 76 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5.

“That guy is special, man, he has a special talent,” said veteran catcher TY Hilton. “He’s powerful, he’s fast in the open field and he’s a guy we can lean on. [in] the running game, the passing game. He’s catching passes, bringing screens home and he’s a key player in this offense. “

Establishing himself as the Colts’ star running back

Taylor is possibly underused outside the backfield. Just a couple of weeks ago, coach Frank Reich said Taylor deserves at least 20 carries a game. That’s a great thought and all, but Taylor still hasn’t had 20 carries all season after having four rookie starts.

The Colts are 6-0 when Taylor has rushed at least 100 yards in a game.

“I’m not interested in just getting your total rushed,” Reich said this week. “That is certainly a big problem. He is also a dynamic player in the passing game. Trust me, I want to get you as many hasty attempts as we can. “

The Colts haven’t had a player rushing for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Joseph Addai did it in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Taylor should accomplish that feat this season, barring injury. But it’s more than just over 1,000 yards. Taylor has shown that he is a threat to a great play every time he touches the ball. He is the best offensive player in the Colts and it could be argued that he is the best player overall on the roster.

With each carry or catch that leads to a great play or touchdown, Taylor moves further away from being in the same category as Richardson and Brown and closer to Edgerrin and Marshall Faulk.

“You play the game to be one of the best,” Taylor said. “You play the game to be a winner. So I feel like everyone should dream of getting a gold jacket one day.”