Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry Square Off In Battle Of Elite Running Backs

The Colts welcome the Tennessee Titans to Lucas Oil Stadium on Halloween for a pivotal AFC South matchup in Week 8. Check out what questions fans had ahead of the game in this week's Colts Mailbag. 

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Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Joe Morris, Indianapolis, Ind.: So if Derrick Henry wasn't in the NFL, would we be talking about Jonathan Taylor as the best running back in the league?

JJ Stankevitz: There would certainly be a good case to be made here. A quick look at the top five running backs in a few important rushing categories entering Week 8:

Rushing attempts

  1. Derrick Henry (191)
  2. Joe Mixon (123)
  3. Alvin Kamara (114)
  4. Jonathan Taylor (105)
  5. Antonio Gibson (103)

Rushing yards

  1. Derrick Henry (869)
  2. Jonathan Taylor (579)
  3. Joe Mixon (539)
  4. Nick Chubb (523)
  5. Ezekiel Elliott (521)

Rushing yards per attempt (min. 60 carries)

  1. Tony Pollard (6.0)
  2. Nick Chubb (5.8)
  3. Chase Edmonds (5.8)
  4. Jonathan Taylor (5.5)
  5. James Robinson (5.5)

Rushing touchdowns

  1. Derrick Henry (10)
  2. James Conner (6)
  3. Jonathan Taylor, James Robinson, Kareem Hunt, Ezekiel Elliott, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs (5)

Rushing yards after contact (via PFF)

  1. Derrick Henry (699)
  2. Jonathan Taylor (441)
  3. Joe Mixon (423)
  4. Nick Chubb (383)
  5. James Robinson (354)

Rushing first downs

  1. Derrick Henry (45)
  2. Jonathan Taylor (36)
  3. Ezekiel Elliott (29)
  4. Antonio Gibson (25)
  5. Damien Harris (25)

Explosive (10+ yard) rushes

  1. Derrick Henry (22)
  2. Dalvin Cook (17)
  3. Jonathan Taylor (16)
  4. Ezekiel Elliott (16)
  5. Nick Chubb (14)

Missed tackles forced (via PFF)

  1. Derrick Henry (30)
  2. Nick Chubb (29)
  3. Javonte Williams (25)
  4. Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon (22)

A few names show up on here in addition to Henry – Taylor, Mixon, Chubb – that would be in that discussion. But no matter where folks nationally may rank Taylor, his impact on the Colts is massive and certainly appreciated in Indiana. The Colts, too, saw this all coming.

"We all saw that during training camp," offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said. "You could tell he was taking that next step – just the confidence that he had while he was running the ball during training camp, he looked really sharp. He looked really good. His cuts were decisive, making defenders miss and just his understanding of the offense. You could just tell he could just play faster."

But also, I mean, look at just how different a level Henry is on entering Week 8. Compared to everyone who's second, Henry has 68 more carries, 290 more yards, four more touchdowns (*which is down to two after James Conner had two on Thursday night), 258 more yards after contact, nine more first down rushes and five more explosive rushes. He's about two to three games ahead of the field in terms of production. It's absolutely staggering.

Which leads us to our next questions...

_Elizabeth Schaffer, Odon, Ind.: What is the best way to tackle Derrick Henry and who can do it best?
_

Dylan Durnal, Lebanon, Ind.: Hello I am a huge Colts fan. Curious as to what you think it will take to slow down Henry. He almost seems impossible to stop.

JJ Stankevitz: Henry is a great running back, but it's not impossible to slow him down.

The Colts emphasized hamstring tackling and rallying to the ball back in Week 3 and did a good job with it – while Henry racked up 113 yards, he needed 28 carries to get there. Kenny Moore II had a particularly impactful game against Henry with a team-high four run stops (plays PFF defines as a "loss" for the offense), while guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyquan Lewis and Julian Blackmon all did their parts to make sure Henry wasn't as efficient as he's been in other games where he's had such a high volume of carries.

Heading into Sunday's rematch, the Colts are looking to keep that same approach – "seven-plus to the ball, hamstring tackle, squeeze, wrap, roll," linebacker Darius Leonard said. And the team's goals, which are the same for every week, are to hold Henry to under 100 yards and fewer than 3.7 yards per carry.

Jordan Kennerknecht, Roanoke, Va.: With Parris Campbell out how much are we going to see Keke Coutee play?

JJ Stankevitz: The Colts called Coutee up from the practice squad to the active roster for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers and he played four snaps, catching one pass for five yards. But the guy who saw the biggest increase in snaps with Campbell and T.Y. Hilton out was Ashton Dulin, who played a career high 43 snaps last Sunday. The Colts value Dulin's speed and physicality, especially when it comes to blocking on the perimeter in the run game.

Coutee could very well be a part of the Colts' plans going forward, but don't sleep on what Dulin can do in this offense.

Patrick Trine, Kokomo, Ind.: How is Dayo Odeyingbo looking, what kind of timeline on his return?

JJ Stankevitz: Odeyingbo is putting in plenty of work before, during and after practice as he progresses toward being activated off the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List. The Colts opened a three-week window for him to be activated last Wednesday, so theoretically, he could be activated any time before practice begins for Week 10's matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. We'll keep an eye on his status in the coming days and weeks, but the debut of the 6-foot-6, 276 pound defensive end will be a nice addition for the Colts' defense in the second half of the season.

The Indianapolis Colts returned to the practice field ahead of their Week 8 matchup with the Tennessee Titans.

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