One year after finishing third in the NFL as a rookie in rushing yards — aided heavily by a 253-yard performance in Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars — 2021 will be the year Jonathan Taylor claims his first rushing crown, according to The Athletic's 32 bold predictions piece (subscription required).
Taylor rushed for an impressive 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie second-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2020. The standout running back added another 36 catches for 299 yards and one touchdown and was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for his performance in December.
With his breakout season, Taylor finished behind Minnesota's Dalvin Cook and Tennessee's Derrick Henry for the rushing title. Now though, finishing anywhere but first will be a thing of the past, should The Athletic nail its prediction for the Colts.
The Colts have had one of the worst summers of any team. They will enter Week 1 with question marks at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line. One thing we’ve seen with Frank Reich over the years is that he’ll adjust based on the type of team he thinks he has. In 2018 with Andrew Luck, the Colts were pass-heavy. In the two years since, he’s leaned more on the run game and the defense. I think one of Reich’s goals — especially early in the season — will be to ease Carson Wentz in and not ask him to do too much. We know that Reich and the Colts believe in Taylor. He was one of four backs last year to rush for at least 1,000 yards and average at least 5.0 YPC. Taylor finished third in rushing yards with 1,169. I think the Colts ride him early and often, and Taylor finishes in the 1,400- to 1,500-yard range.
Taylor did all of that in 2020 while missing a game due to COVID-19 protocols, while also being eased into the NFL with his workload early on.
Once the 2021 season kicks off though, the gloves should be off for Taylor, especially after the Colts held him out of all preseason action this summer in an effort to decrease his workload overall and keep him fresh for the regular season.
Should the Colts rely on Taylor and the rest of the running backs early in the season as Carson Wentz is eased into the fold, Taylor should be able to get off to a strong start behind a talented offensive line.
However, the first 5-6 games of the season will see the Colts squaring off against top competition in teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens before getting to the Houston Texans on the road in Week 6.
If Taylor can get off to a fast start, he should be able to carry the load on the ground once again for the Indianapolis Colts, and in the process lead the league in rushing as The Athletic predicts.
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