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One big Colts training camp question, running backs: Can Jonathan Taylor, run game get back on track?

The Colts slipped from second in the NFL in rushing in 2021 to 23rd in 2022. 

Jonathan Taylor's message to Anthony Richardson, whenever the No. 4 overall pick takes over as the Colts' starting quarterback, will be simple: "I got you."

And it's not just about giving Richardson the mental and physical breather of handing the ball off.

"No. 1, just let him know hey, we have a protection called, I'm keeping you upright," Taylor said. "Don't worry about a thing. We know the five guys up front, those guys are going to keep you upright.

"We're side by side. Look where we're at, we're side by side. That's how it is. I have your back. I'm right here with you. No matter, hey, I need you go to get this guy in the A-gap, or hey, I need you get out quick so I can dump it off to you. I'm right here by your side and that means something."

Richardson will need to trust Taylor when he drops back to pass, certainly. But for the health of the entire Colts offense, being able to lean on Taylor – whether Richardson or Gardner Minshew is at quarterback – will be key in 2023.

Taylor battled nagging ankle issues in 2022, and his production slipped after two standout seasons to begin his career:

Table inside Article
Year Games Attempts Yards Yards/attempt Touchdowns
2020 15 232 1,169 5.0 11
2021 17 332 1,811 5.5 18
2022 11 192 861 4.5 4

There are plenty of reasons to believe 2022 was an outlier for Taylor. First: He underwent an offseason procedure on his ankle and spent the spring methodically and intentionally working toward being cleared to practice. When healthy in 2020-2021, Taylor proved to be one of the NFL's most efficient and explosive running backs.

But some of Taylor's underlying numbers – the ones largely dependent on him, and not the rest of the offense – from 2022 are encouraging. Notably, Taylor averaged 0.22 missed tackles per attempt in 2022; he averaged 0.20 in 2021 (both were easily above league average). And he averaged 3.08 yards after contact per rushing attempt, down from 3.83 in 2021 but still above the NFL average (numbers via Pro Football Focus).

In a lot of ways, though, 2023 will be a fresh start for Taylor. And that fresh start will begin in earnest at Grand Park over the next few weeks.

"We have another opportunity – 2021, 2022, now it's 2023," Taylor said. "You have another opportunity to write another page in your book. What are you going to do? What's this chapter going to be? How do you want to express yourself with this chapter? So, that's what I'm excited for."

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