August 31, 2021

Here's Why Colts' Jonathan Taylor Is the Next Superstar NFL Running Back

Jonathan Taylor entered the NFL with an impressive collegiate resume that set the stage for a promising career.

The Doak Walker Walker Award winner finished his career at Wisconsin as the only player in NCAA history to rush for more than 6,000 yards in a three-year span.

It didn’t take long for Taylor to quickly grab a hold of the starting job with the Indianapolis Colts as he finished third in the league with 1,169 rushing yards along with 11 rushing touchdowns. He tallied more than 100 rushing yards three times, including finishing the regular season with a career-high and Colts single-game record with 232 rushing yards, breaking Hall of Famer Edgerrin James' previous mark of 219 yards. 

As Taylor enters his second season, he holds the prime opportunity to top what he accomplished in his rookie campaign. 

He's the Clear-Cut Starter

The former Badger began last season battling for playing time alongside Marlon Mack. A season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Week 1 action ended Mack’s campaign, opening the door for Taylor to take the reins. 

Despite a slow start to his career, Taylor became more comfortable in the Colts' offense and started to explode with more opportunities.

Even though Mack is returning and Taylor will share time with pass-catching back Nyheim Hines, all signs point to the second-year back being the obvious workhorse back in Indianapolis' backfield. 

Taylor should get more opportunities in the passing game this season, but with Wentz under center, the running back position will see fewer targets than they did with Philip Rivers. That'll put more of an emphasis on the Colts' running game which should favor Taylor getting a lot more work. 

Carson Wentz’s Injury Uncertainty

The Colts made the risky move to acquire Wentz earlier this offseason, and it’s led to lingering issues. 

Wentz is recovering from foot surgery that could bleed into the regular season. Meanwhile, he was recently placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The former Pro Bowler may return to the fold by Week 1 action, but Taylor remains the strong fixture within the offense. 

If Wentz is still not completely recovered by Week 1 — or if he has to miss time — the Colts will surely rely on their strong running game even more. And if Taylor can continue his hot streak from last season, then he should be able to have a strong start to his season.  

In other words, expect a heavy dose of Taylor behind one of the league’s best offensive lines.

Heavy Workload Ahead

If his 232 rushing-yard performance in Week 17 last season didn’t prove it, Taylor is the definition of a workhorse running back. 

He finished last year eighth with 232 rush attempts and 10th with 5.0 yards per carry. What became glaringly obvious is that the more work he received, the more effective he became in the running game. 

In the seven instances he received at least 15 rush attempts, he tallied north of 60 rushing yards. What it speaks to more than anything is that Taylor won’t have any shortage of responsibility in the Colts’ offense.

Thanks to a sturdy offensive line, led by All-Pro Quenton Nelson, and a strong running attack, it's easy to see how Taylor can build off his rookie year and become a superstar in Year Two. 

Photo: Getty Images