When Pro Bowl running back Jonathan Taylor injured his left ankle while fumbling in the Indianapolis Colts‘ latest loss, the medical setback did more than sideline a key player.
It exposed just how dependent the struggling 1-2-1 Colts are on the NFL‘s rushing champion from last season. It also raises questions about whether his workload is affecting his durability with several league sources emphasizing that the Colts could risk running the former Wisconsin star into the ground.
Should Jonathan Taylor Play on a Short Week?
Although X-rays were negative with no structural damage found and the injury isn’t regarded as serious, according to league sources, there is some question about whether Taylor can or should play Thursday night against the Denver Broncos on a short turnaround.
“JT is their guy, everything revolves around him and the running game,” a league source said. “That said, he’s human and now he’s hurt. It’s not that bad, but it’s early in the season to push it and possibly make it worse. The smart play is letting him heal up and give it a shot next week. Of course, the owner (Jim Irsay) and everyone is getting extremely antsy and upset about the bad start. Something has to give.”
Taylor was held to 42 rushing yards on 20 carries against the Tennessee Titans, an ineffectual performance as there were few holes for him to run through. The Colts’ expensive offensive line, led by All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, hasn’t met expectations.
And Taylor’s numbers are down. He’s gained just 328 yards, an average of 4.0 per carry, after averaging 5.5 yards per run last season in rushing for a league-high 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Colts rushed for 38 yards against the Titans, their lowest output in seven years.
“What they’ve been doing so far on offense isn’t working,” a source said. “They’ve got to figure this out fast. Matt Ryan is still a solid quarterback, but he doesn’t have a lot of weapons. They’ve got Taylor and Michael Pittman as their top two guys. They need more people to step up to help them out. They’re overly dependent on Taylor. That’s obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.”
If Taylor is out, that absence would severely impact the offense, considering how much he’s called upon to carry the workload. Backup running back Nyheim Hines and undrafted rookie Deon Jackson would shoulder the workload with Taylor out.
Hines is capable, but he’s been used sparingly. He’s rushed for 11 yards on eight carries this season and has caught 17 passes for 113 yards.
Jackson was in heavy demand as an undrafted free agent. He took Taylor’s snaps in practice Monday, per a league source. The Colts also have Phillip Lindsay on the practice squad, and perhaps, he’ll be elevated to face his former team.
This offense needs a shot in the arm. They’ve already turned the ball over nine times and tied a winless Houston Texans team to open the season.
Perhaps if Taylor can rest up and the offensive line starts clicking again, the Colts can become less one-dimensional and learn how to win again. Right now, they’re in limbo as an offense, and it’s bad enough that many are wondering how is Irsay going to handle a potential non-playoff season. Would he fire Frank Reich?