Is it time to quit on Johnathan Taylor?


(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

In the freezing cold weather, Johnathan Taylor carried the ball 28 times against the Bills, ultimately leading them to a win.

Ryan White, Contributing Writer

Indianapolis Colts running back Johnathan Taylor was the National Football League rushing yards leader in 2021. He was also a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro last year. 

Taylor started out flying under the radar as a second-round draft pick in 2020. However, he’s improved every year since. In fact, Taylor recorded 1,811 rushing yards and 360 receiving yards, eclipsing more than 2,000 total yards and 20 total touchdowns to go along with that. 

Taylor and the Colts have been struggling offensively with the team rotating in multiple quarterbacks and not being competitive for most of the season. During the 2021 offseason, the team signed Matt Ryan, who has been a solid veteran quarterback for more than a decade with the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts also picked up Nick Foles from free agency to serve as his backup quarterback. They seemed to make the right moves. 

Unfortunately, the Colt’s problem right now is the offense. The offensive line specifically hasn’t really done well in opening up holes for Taylor and keeping the defenders out of the backfield. None of the linemen are new, as the team signed all of the starters from last season to offer stability. 

The Colts have had a losing record for most of the year. Taylor’s role has been diminished, especially when the Colts are down early and have to resort to passing to try and catch up. Taylor is not even a top-ten running back this year. There are multiple quarterbacks who have outpaced Taylor in rushing yards, which is unheard of. Taylor has experienced quite the fall from grace compared to last season.

Clearly, Taylor, who has also been battling injuries and missed two games, isn’t the same player he was last year. Multiple people are to blame for this: the offensive line, the quarterbacks, the playcalling and the head coach Frank Reich. But Taylor doesn’t seem to be making any excuses, keeping the focus on himself and trying to make big plays to help the team in any way he can. 

The fact is the offense has switched from a run-heavy to a more pass-heavy offense and as a result, has not pulled in the results the team wanted. The team fired Reich after week nine for him not sticking to the team’s true identity – putting the ball in Taylor’s hands early and often.

All in all, this leads to the question: should people start to think less of Taylor? Was 2021 a fluke, or has there simply been a stretch of bad luck for him and the Colts? Fantasy football owners are even questioning starting the star running back, which is crazy since most leagues had Taylor drafted first overall before the season began.

I think the general consensus is to wait it out with Taylor, while the team rights their ship. The biggest thing is keeping everyone healthy and that should have the biggest impact on Taylor and the Colts’ success for the remaining games in 2022. 

Taylor has not been given the opportunity to succeed this year. He would be the first one to tell you that patience is key. With increased touches, Taylor and the offense will be instantly better. I’m certain that Jeff Saturday, who is the interim head coach, knows this. The plan is to finish the year on a high note and hit the ground running come 2023 with Taylor expected to match his 2021 effort. 

Contact Ryan White at [email protected]