Colts: Projecting Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins’ roles after Marlon Mack injury
Here’s what the Colts backfield will look like in Week 2 and beyond following Marlon Mack suffering a season-ending injury.
Colts fans held their collective breath when they watched Marlon Mack get carted off the field during Sunday’s game against Jacksonville with what was originally tabbed as an ankle injury.
The 24-year-old running back was sent to the locker room to undergo further testing, which subsequently revealed that he might have suffered a torn Achilles. Unfortunately for the Colts, their worst fears were realized on Monday, as reports confirmed that Mack will miss the rest of the season.
Prior to suffering the injury, Mack was enjoying a solid game, tallying 26 yards on four carries while adding three receptions for 30 yards through the air. Big things were expected from the former fourth-round pick, who’s in a contract year, after he compiled 1,091 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 4.4 YPC in 2019.
To say that this is a huge loss for the Colts would be an understatement, but they are lucky enough to have reinforcements that should keep the running game operating smoothly for the rest of the year. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look as to how the backfield workload could pan out moving forward.
Second-round pick Jonathan Taylor took over as the Colts’ lead back once Mack was removed from the game, and we can expect him to be the starter in Week 2 and beyond, assuming he isn’t entirely ineffective. We didn’t think Taylor would be used as a reliever for Mack for very long, and it turns out we were right — for the worst reason possible.
The Wisconsin product struggled to find holes against Jacksonville’s front seven, managing just 22 yards on nine carries (2.2 YPC). However, it was refreshing to see how much Philip Rivers trusted him as a receiver coming out of the backfield. For the game, Taylor finished second on the Colts with six receptions for 67 yards, so fans should anticipate him receiving between 12-15 carries and 4-7 targets per game.
While that will likely account for the majority of the touches, don’t be surprised if Nyheim Hines comes close to splitting reps with the former Badger, as he was one of a few bright spots in the Colts’ humiliating loss. The North Carolina State product looked incredibly nimble on his way to registering 28 rushing yards on 4.0 YPC (plus a touchdown) and 45 receiving yards on eight receptions (plus a TD).
In the simplest of terms, Hines’ lively showing against the Jaguars should earn him a significant role, both as a runner and receiver, on the team for the remainder of the campaign.
As we know, Indianapolis was entering the 2020 season with the intention of deploying a three-headed monster in the backfield. This means that Jordan Wilkins will have a role to play. At 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, the third-year pro is more physically imposing than Taylor (5-10) and Hines (5-9), so we could see the third-year pro be utilized in short yardage situations and maybe even on the goal line.
It absolutely stinks that we won’t be able to witness Mack’s response to Taylor supposedly coming for his starting job, but injuries are just a part of the game. In the meantime, this is how we’re expecting the Colts to split up the workload in the backfield for the foreseeable future.
Glad they kept Wilkins after all.