New Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is going to thrive in Frank Reich’s offense.
The Indianapolis Colts traded up with their second pick in round two of the 2020 NFL Draft to select Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, a move that was pretty shocking considering Indy’s other needs. However, general manager Chris Ballard and his scouting team were very high on Taylor, and owner Jim Irsay told Ballard to “go get him” during the second round.
With other backs like Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines in the fold, Taylor won’t have to take the major load early on in his career, which is great considering he had 926 carries with the Badgers in three seasons.
So how will Taylor be used effectively in head coach Frank Reich’s offense? Reich is clearly ready to shift to a more balanced attack that could feature a lot more of the ground game, and that’s where Taylor will thrive. Let’s dive in to the film.
Between the Tackles
First, let’s look at how Taylor operates between the tackles as a bell cow running back on early downs. His vision, power, and quickness show up a lot here, and speaking of vision, he’s the best processor of anyone in this running back class. Let’s look at some examples.
Here against Nebraska, Taylor does a lot with a little. There isn’t much of a crease anywhere in front of him, and yet Taylor gets skinny through the hole, reducing his surface area to take a hit. Then, he shows off his power and balance through contact, keeping the legs going as he gets through a couple defenders wrapping him up high. That leg drive is often how he gets extra yardage after contact. It took quite a few defenders to bring him down on that rep.
This rep against Iowa shows Taylor’s ability to sift through traffic. He gets an easy opening early on, but runs into heavy traffic as he’s cornered by three defenders. Taylor has more than sufficient change of direction skills. He can make the initial defender miss, and does so here. Taylor also processes things so quickly, adding in another quick jump cut to make a second defender miss.
Out In Space
Here’s where things get really fun with Taylor. His elite track speed, quickness, contact balance, and (once again) vision show up when he gets into space.
This is a clip that’s used very often when analyzing Taylor’s game. Here against Michigan, there’s nothing in front of him, so Taylor bounces it quickly to the outside, and sees nothing but green in front of him. Taylor’s burst and long speed come from his track background, and that game breaking speed will be a great asset in Reich’s offense, where the Indianapolis Colts been missing some true home run hitters in every part of the offense.
This run has everything. Taylor keeps his pads low between the tackles, and shows good contact balance as Malik Harrison tries to bring him down. Then, he makes a solid cut to get up field, and delivers a wicked stiff arm to the defensive back. To finish this off, Taylor makes a wicked jump cut to the outside and picks up extra yardage with the speed. Get excited Colts fans, because you’ll see this in his career in Indy.
Once again we get a clip showing off Taylor’s long speed, this time in a key moment. Wisconsin held a slim lead against Iowa, and needed a couple more first downs to get it done. Taylor iced the game on this play, seeing an opening and showing off the burst. He also made a nice move on the corner down the field, faking a cut inside with a nice jab step to pick up some more yardage.
Here again, we have Taylor sifting through the traffic to find a lane, and breaking out a nice spin move to make the initial defender miss. Then, he hits a second gear and breaks off a big gain. The Indianapolis Colts really have a good one here in Taylor.
The big knock entering the 2019 season for Jonathan Taylor was his receiving ability, and that teams weren’t sure he’d be a three down back in the NFL. Well, Taylor made some strides in that area in his final season with the Badgers.
Here against Nebraska, we see Taylor’s ability to create some separation on an angle route, showing good foot fire at the top of his route to freeze the defender. Unfortunately, he didn’t get targeted here, but if he can be relied upon to do this for the Indianapolis Colts, he will fall into the favor of Philip Rivers early on in his rookie season.
On this rep, Taylor is running a wheel route up the field against Minnesota. This is a bit under thrown by Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan here, so Taylor turns, makes a good adjustment to the football, and secures it for the score. This is a real promising part of his growth as a three down back.
It’s not as important as it used to be, but in some schemes, it’s important for a running back to be able to pass protect. The good news is Jonathan Taylor can do that.
In this rep, Taylor picks up the blitzing corner on the outside and uses an effective cut block to get him on the ground. As long as he stays controlled with it and doesn’t lunge, he’ll be able to make this effective in the NFL.
This rep is more impressive. Taylor picks up Iowa’s blitzing linebacker here in the A gap, and has a good initial strike and wide base to stop him in his tracks.
This is the one knock with Taylor. He’s had 18 fumbles in three seasons, and that number needs to come down if he’s going to be the guy in the Colts offense. Losing opportunities, let alone giving them away, hurts offenses.
This rep, against Nebraska, shows Taylor making an impressive catch with one hand, but he fails to secure it by bringing it into his frame, and the defender knocks it loose.
Jonathan Taylor is going to be an effective part of the Indianapolis Colts offense from day one. His blend of vision, quickness, power, and contact balance are going to get him on the field on early downs, and his growth as a receiver is a good sign. Taylor may not get on the field much early on on third downs, but his ability in pass protection is a good start, along with his improving hands. He just has to make sure to limit the fumbles and protect the ball.
Colts fans should expect a very solid season from Taylor during his rookie campaign, and behind that offensive line, he will have some big games. With Marlon Mack still in the fold, we may not see the gaudy numbers that he could put up in year two.