PFF lists Colts’ Jonathan Taylor as NFL’s third-best running back

Photo of Jonathan Taylor smiling between drills in uniform on the field at Colts OTAs.

It’s an inspiring time to run the damn ball in Indianapolis.

Pro Football Focus writer Thomas Valentine released an article ranking the NFL’s top 32 starting running backs and listed Colts’ Jonathan Taylor as the third-best in the league, behind 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey and Ravens’ Derrick Henry. Taylor tallied 741 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games last season, but enters the 2024 season with an ambition to recapture the NFL’s rushing title. Indianapolis’ star tailback averages 5.0 yards per carry in his career and holds the longest active scoring streak in the league at five consecutive games.

Taylor led the league and set single-season franchise records in 2021 with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing TDs. In his second season, Taylor became the fourth player in franchise history to lead the league in both categories and the youngest player in NFL history to record at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 TDs in a single season. In four seasons, his 40 rushing TDs are tied for the fifth-most in franchise history.

Taylor mentioned to reporters at OTAs he thrives from consistent repetitions to get a feel for his blockers. When healthy, the Colts tailback runs behind one of the most explosive offensive line units in the league, evidenced by Taylor’s season-high 188 rushing yards and a rushing TD on 30 carries in the regular season finale.

“With your linemen, your blockers – you just know when you see them on that double team you just feel, ‘I know they are about to come off,’” Taylor told reporters last Wednesday. “Just being able to have that feel with the guys I think will be big for us. At the end of the day, you just have to put it together on Sundays – that’s what’s going to matter.”

It was arguably the best performance from any running back all season — 81.6 PFF run grade. Trailing late in the fourth quarter during the Week 18 elimination game against the Texans, Colts head coach Shane Steichen rode Taylor for nine carries in 11 plays. Steichen ultimately burned his first timeout with 1:06 left and changed personnel before the fateful dropped pass on fourth-and-1 just 15 yards away from the end zone.

With Taylor alongside second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson, the Colts backfield tandem could emerge as the best 1-2 punch in the league. Indianapolis finished among the 10 best rushing attacks, averaging 4.3 yards per rush and 121.1 rushing yards per game, despite missing Richardson in 13 games and Taylor in seven games. Taylor missed the first four games to begin the regular season and was inactive during a three-week stretch in December. If an opposing edge rusher is caught in no man’s land, the threat of Richardson pulling the leather to burst downfield makes the duo even more dangerous. Opposing defensive coordinators will caution to stack the box against the Colts unknown aerial attack and Richardson’s willingness to surge forward in 2024.

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