Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Colts’ Jonathan Taylor will return to Elite status in 2024

By meerna Jun12,2024

Indianapolis Colts defender Jonathan Taylor was the king of the soccer world in 2021. He had a sensational season rushing for 1,811 yards, accompanied by 18 touchdowns on the ground. He earned First Team All-Pro honors and was narrowly defeated by Cooper Kupp for Offensive Player of the Year.

Simply put, Taylor played at a ridiculously high level. Expectations were obviously high heading into 2022 as the Colts hoped he could take advantage of Taylor’s elite play (and the rest of Matt Ryan’s skills) in the playoffs. The events that took place in 2022 were simply a disaster.

Taylor started the 2022 season on a tear, rushing the ball a total of 40 times for 215 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks. He was kept in check for the next two weeks before suffering a devastating knee injury against the Tennessee Titans. Taylor tore his ACL and meniscus while suffering additional damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in the week four matchup.

Despite the severity of the injury, Taylor returned just two weeks later for the second matchup against the Titans. He remained active for the next two weeks before missing the team’s Week 9 game against the New England Patriots.

Taylor returned to action in Week 10 against the Las Vegas Raiders under interim head coach Jeff Saturday, even though he had already missed three weeks of the year with a torn MCL and meniscus. Taylor agonized over the next five weeks before the injury became too serious to continue playing. He missed the rest of the 2022 season, limiting his number of games played to just 10.

Despite a difficult 2022 season (for both Taylor and the Colts), the star was even more optimistic entering the past year. New head coach Shane Steichen was the mastermind behind Philadelphia’s dangerous, rushing attack, and exciting new quarterback Anthony Richardson was expected to get defenders out of the box for Taylor to exploit. Unfortunately, this optimism once again did not translate into results.

Taylor’s 2023 offseason was filled with confusion as the returning star was stuck in a contract dispute with the team that was leaked to the public. The situation worsened when Taylor missed practice (primarily due to the lingering effects of his knee injury), and the situation worsened enough for Taylor to request a trade from the organization.

Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed and Taylor extended his contract with the Colts for three years as soon as he returned from the PUP list in early October. Taylor was still ill from a knee injury he had suffered over a year earlier, but the star player eventually returned to the field. He slowly adapted to the new offense and became healthier over the next six weeks in the lineup. Against the Tampa Buccaneers in Week 12, Taylor threw for 91 yards and two scores on the ground.

Unfortunately, this joy was short-lived because Taylor suffered another injury that excluded him from the game for a month. As Taylor began to gain momentum in his new offense, he was returned to the bench with a thumb injury that required surgery. He returned to the lineup for the final three weeks of the season, but his overall campaign was again limited to just 10 games.

Taylor led the NFL with 332 carries for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns in 17 games played in 2021. The first-team All-Pro running back seemed to be entering his period of greatest dominance for the Indianapolis Colts. However, since this season, Taylor has made 361 rushes for 1,602 yards and 11 touchdowns in 20 games.

The upcoming season will be extremely important in terms of whether Taylor can finally return to the dominant force he once was.

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Light at the end of the tunnel

The introduction to this article paints a bleak picture, but there is reason to be excited about Taylor and his potential to bounce back in 2024. Let’s start with the fact that Taylor simply hasn’t been healthy since September 2022. Whether it was an MCL injury or a thumb injury, Taylor’s health has been consistent for over a year. Now he is finally healthy and fully fit to go to the current training camp.

Last week, Taylor had this to say about last season’s ongoing injury situation:

β€œIt’s always difficult too because now you’re trying to recover after every match. When you enter the field fresh, the only thing left to do is to hold on, not to come back. Maintain yourself, re-gather yourself every week. It’s difficult – you know it’s a brutal match. Of course, as I said, everything will change. There will be something you will have to fight or there will be something you will have to deal with, as long as you come prepared and ready enough to possibly set yourself up for success. Like I said, it’s a brutal game, so anything can happen.

Instead of prioritizing recovery and getting back together, Taylor can finally attack the playbook and build chemistry with the players and staff around him. Its action is complete, in every sense of the word.

The other forgotten factor in this equation is that Taylor hasn’t performed particularly badly over the last two seasons, despite suffering significant injuries. The mark was far from the mark he set in 2021, but he averaged 4.4 yards per carry over the last two seasons. When he was on the field, he continued to make a significant impact in the red zone, and his post-contact yards per attempt remained quite high (he was 8th among starting running backs in that category last season).

Taylor may not have looked like himself over the past two seasons, but he’s still been far from having a bad run over that span.

The final important factor is the way Taylor finished the 2023 season. After a disastrous two years, Taylor could have easily finished last season and prepared for 2024. He did anything but that in the final two weeks of the season.

In the two games the Colts needed to win, Taylor carried the offense on his back. He rushed for 96 yards and a score against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 17, leading the team to a narrow victory. In the win-or-go-home finale against the Houston Texans, Taylor exploded for one of the most dominant single-game performances in years.

Taylor carried the ball 30 times for 188 yards and a touchdown in the Colts’ heartbreaking Week 18 loss to the Texans. Taylor had eight rushing attempts that went over 10 yards during that outing, the most in a single game by a running back since Derrick Henry had eight in 2020 (ironically against the Colts). Taylor also forced eight missed tackles against a solid Texans defense.

Taylor’s final appearance of the 2023 season was everything fans wanted to see from the star. He was fast, decisive, explosive and powerful throughout the game and almost led this offense to victory over a playoff team. He was just Jonathan Taylor again, and this is the last photo the entire fanbase has of the star player heading into the offseason.

Taylor’s return to dominance in this final coincides perfectly with Anthony Richardson’s return to quarterback. The dreams every fan had before last year about this 1-2 deathblow may come true in 2024. Factor in the fact that there is no one in the Colts’ offense to threaten Taylor with a playing time penalty and the stars are on their way. The Colts will be relying on their best player this upcoming season.

Jonathan Taylor has been going through this throughout the last two seasons, but this year it seems like it’s finally time to put things right. He’s healthy for training camp, his offense is built to support him, and he’ll get the ball under pressure. Taylor is expected to explode and have a dominant 2024 season for the Indianapolis Colts.

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By meerna

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