Colts: Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. setting the practice tone is encouraging

WESTFIELD, INDIANA - JULY 29: Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
WESTFIELD, INDIANA - JULY 29: Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts appear to have nailed it in the 2020 NFL Draft, as they used a pair of second-round picks to select USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. After their rookie seasons, both players look like long-term building blocks.

While Pittman had a robust 503 yards and one touchdown, Taylor cemented himself as one of the best young running backs in the game, totaling just under 1,500 yards from scrimmage and scoring 12 touchdowns. If both keep improving, Frank Reich’s offense will be feared.

There is more to being a franchise player in the NFL than gaudy numbers. Taylor and Pittman both need to take on a role as a leader that helps shape the philosophy of how this club operates. Based on what some reporters have seen in practice, both of them are taking to these roles.

Per Stephen Holder of The Athletic, Taylor and Pittman were two of the main catalysts in what was an ultra-aggressive practice against the Carolina Panthers before their preseason clash. The physicality and vocal nature of both players stood out, and it could be a harbinger of a very aggressive Colts attack on offense.

Colts: Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. are two physical players.

Taylor barely beat out Jaguars UDFA stud James Robinson to lead all rookies in rushing yards last year, and he clearly has his eyes set on an even more productive season. With either Jacob Eason or Sam Ehlinger at quarterback for the first few weeks, Taylor will get plenty of opportunities to tote the rock.

Reich thinks that Taylor is primed for an even better sophomore season, as he has spent most of training camp gushing about how good his running back looks. Look for Indy to lean on a smashmouth approach with two youngsters at quarterback and Reich seemingly bursting at the seams when it comes time to discuss Taylor’s potential.

Pittman is also worth keeping a close eye on. With the likes of TY Hilton and Parris Campbell likely doing most of the damage underneath, a 6-4 presence like Pittman could pound defensive backs after the catch and dominate them in contested catch scenarios.

The yin-yang combination between bigger receivers like Pittman and Mike Strachan and speedsters like Hilton and Campbell could change the complexion of their passing game.

The Colts might have some standout offensive linemen and defensive stalwarts like Darius Leonard already locked up long-term, but Pittman and Taylor have given Indy every indication that they will join that long-term nucleus.

If second-year players are already making sure that the Colts will be a rough-and-tumble team, that’s an amazing sign for both Indy’s prospects in 2021 and the duo’s growth as leaders.