INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Daurice Fountain and running back Jonathan Taylor talked to local reporters today via video conference. What did Fountain have to say about taking advantage of added opportunities at receiver? And what is Taylor learning on the fly about pre-snap reads so he can eventually break out in a big way? Here's the latest edition of "Colts Chatter."
Wide receiver Daurice Fountain
» In a moment more than two years in the making, Fountain was able to make his first-career reception in last Sunday's win over the New York Jets: Fountain actually finished with two receptions for 23 yards in Indy's 36-7 victory, but his first-career catch came with 4:11 remaining in the second quarter, when quarterback Philip Rivers found the receiver along the right side of the field for a 12-yard gain.
Fountain said he was so locked in at the time that it didn't even immediately register what had happened.
"It was pretty amazing to be honest," Fountain said. "I didn't really realize it at first until Jack (Doyle) came up to me. He was like, 'Hey man, congratulations. I know that was your first catch.' I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I was just really focused on trying to get the ball back to the ref, but it was really amazing. Obviously, it was a milestone. Man, it was just a blessing. I just felt good."
Fountain has endured his fair share of challenges since being selected by the Colts in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was waived during final cuts his rookie season and spent most of the year on the practice squad; the following summer, Fountain was having an outstanding training camp when he suffered a brutal ankle injury that ended his 2019 season before it ever had a chance to begin.
After three surgeries and some more complications, Fountain was somehow able to find a way to return for camp this year, and once again excelled. He was originally signed to the Colts' practice squad to begin the season, but was elevated to the active roster on Sept. 16.
Off the field, he said the birth of his daughter, as well as the loss of his grandmother, with whom he was extremely close, created its own set of challenges.
But here he is, making plays on the biggest of stages in the NFL.
"Just raising my daughter and losing my grandma — it was very tough, and obviously getting cut. Being the only rookie to get cut in this famous rookie class, it really hurt me a lot," Fountain said. "So just (been) trying to bounce back from all of that. Just trying to become a new dad, it was just a lot on my mental. But thank God I got through it and there are brighter days ahead now."
» Fountain knows he has an opportunity to make some noise with a larger role at receiver: The Colts in Week 2 lost top slot receiver Parris Campbell, who suffered a knee injury and is out indefinitely.
Then, last Sunday, rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. — the Colts' second-round (34th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft — suffered a lower leg injury that required immediate surgery; his return timetable is not yet known.
While Fountain no doubt feels for his fellow brothers in the receiver room — and can certainly relate to suffering a serious injury and all the challenges it presents — he also knows how important it is to remain focused on the task at hand. The "next man up" mentality has presented Fountain to possibly be just that — the next man up at the wide receiver position.
For Fountain, it's important to stay consistent in his approach. He's been known to take over practice from time to time with big plays in the passing game, and has to be ready to do the same now if given the chance in game settings.
"I definitely have a lot of confidence," Fountain said. "I'm just treating everyday like it's a game. Obviously, over the past few years, I haven't been able to play in a lot of games so I was just taking that energy to practice and just treating every practice like a game. It really helped me just go out here and be prepared and be ready when my number was called."
Running back Jonathan Taylor
» Taylor knows his work at improving his pre-snap reads will eventually lead to him breaking out into one of those big runs he was so well-known for during his time at Wisconsin: Taylor had 19 running plays of 40 or more yards during his prolific college career at Wisconsin, where he left after just three years as the NCAA's sixth-leading rusher of all-time.
But Taylor is yet to break out one of those big runs in his first three games in the NFL, the last two of which he's been the Colts' starting running back. His best runs so far have been 16, 13, 12 and 10 yards, respectively.
Taylor certainly isn't pressing to break a big one, but he knows that the more live reps he gets, and the more work he can get with his pre-snap reads, the better chance he'll have to get out into open space.
"We talk about that in our running back room; we talk about how a lot of the things are pre-snap reads," Taylor said. "You see you have a 9-technique pre-snap read you're like, 'I might not get outside.' That's what you're generally thinking. Just quick, key tips that can help you. Now of course, you may get outside. You never know but just some things to help you play a little bit faster. Then the rest – once the ball snaps, you have to trust your instincts, you have to trust your training but it's really those pre-snap keys that help you with your decision making, but you still have to react to what you see.
"You definitely do want to get into the open field and let your legs go, but I think we did a great job – not we did, the guys in the running back group – when I got here they were explaining like, 'Hey, this is a new level of football now. So you're going to have your opportunity,'" Taylor continued. "when you see it, you have to hit it otherwise that's your opportunity right there. You know it's that much tougher to get out in the open field and when you get out into the open field, you have to make it count. It's definitely an adjustment but you have to understand, it's big-boy football now. Four yards or better is acceptable, but you definitely want to get out into that open field and kind of show your talents."
» A nifty little move on 4th and Goal from the 1 helped Taylor get into the end zone for his second-career touchdown vs. the Jets: With 5:24 to go in the third quarter of last Sunday's game against the Jets, and the Colts already up by 10, 17-7, head coach Frank Reich elected to keep the offense on the field on 4th and Goal with just one yard, and the New York defense, separating Indy from the end zone.
Score a touchdown here, and the game is pretty much out of reach. But if you get stuffed, and the Jets then use the momentum to score a touchdown of their own, it's anybody's ballgame.
The Colts brought out a two-wide receiver, two-tight end look, stacking the line on the right side, and quarterback Philip Rivers taking the snap under center. He handed it off to Taylor, who almost immediately saw safety Bradley McDougald quickly approaching downhill into the hole between right tackle Braden Smith and tight end Mo Alie-Cox.
Instead of trying to run through the safety, however, Taylor made a quick juke move to his right before plowing into Smith to his left to propel him into the end zone to score his second-career touchdown.
"One of the biggest things was I could just see how he was coming down at an angle and we always talk about creating a soft shoulder," Taylor recalled of that play. "Seeing him come down on an angle towards my right, I noticed he has – I mean it's fourth-and-one. He obviously sees that a running back is coming downhill so he has to sprint downhill to make this tackle. He's not going to be able to break it down, he's not going to be able to fit it up correctly because he's just triggering. That was my first instinct, 'Hey, this guy is coming down at an angle. Sidestep him to his soft shoulder because he'll just be coming out of control.' Those things, you just have to make those decisions in those split seconds. Fourth-and-one, you just have to find a way."