Since making his season debut in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans, running back Jonathan Taylor has seen a consistent increase in his usage and production.
From seven touches and 34 scrimmage yards against the Titans to setting a season-high with 21 touches and 120 scrimmage yards last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Taylor has continued to become a bigger part of the offense.
A big reason for the jump is the way he has been used in the passing game.
In three games, Taylor has nine catches on 11 targets for 107 receiving yards. By comparison, he had 143 receiving yards in 11 games last season.
He's on pace to finish the season with 39 catches and 456 receiving yards, which would be a career-high.
Benefitting from the creative ways that head coach Shane Steichen uses him, Taylor said Steichen always finds a way to ensure his players are in a position to succeed.
"I've mentioned this to you guys over the past few weeks. He's letting the players show their talents and putting in certain schemes to let them flourish," Taylor said. "You never know what we'll come out in. You'll never know what play we'll be running. It's just the offensive mind of Shane Steichen."
Upon Taylor's return to practice, he showed Steichen and the rest of the coaching staff that as talented of a runner as he is, he was also an adept receiver.
"We'll keep trying to utilize our guys to best have success on offense, but talk about anybody that can get open – we like that in the pass game, everybody in the NFL does," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "Anybody that can create an explosive pass, we like that and JT has had a few here these last couple of weeks. It's good to get him going."
As Taylor continues to get more opportunities as a pass catcher, he will soon be looking across the sideline at one of the best receiving backs in the NFL.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara currently leads all running backs with 35 catches this season. All the more impressive is that he has managed to do so despite missing the first three games of the season because of a suspension.
Throughout his career, Kamara has 465 receptions, including a stretch of at least 80 catches a season between 2017-2020. While Kamara was on that tear, he was one of the league's great pass-catching running backs that Taylor would study in college as he worked to expand his own game.
"We would watch a ton of James White, just being an alumni and a guy who's done it at a high level for a long time," Taylor said. "Transitioning over into the league, definitely funny enough Kamara, of course [Christian] McCaffery. But those guys who have done that at a high level consistently, that's what you want. There are some guys that can do things at a high level, but you want someone that can do it at a high level consistently. So, those are the people I tend to look towards."
This Sunday's Week 8 matchup will be the first time that Taylor has played Kamara and the Saints.
As excited as Taylor is to get to see Kamara play in person, he said he doesn't want him to make too many big plays.
"You always want to compete on the field and I know he'll do whatever he can to make plays on the field for his team," Taylor said. "I mean, it looks like for some reason he's not even trying just the way he runs. It looks effortless, so just being able to go in and watch that in person, it's gonna be awesome. Hopefully not too awesome because our defense is gonna do a great job, but it's definitely a lot of respect there."