Colts' Jonathan Taylor Set to Return to Elite Status in 2024 (2024)

Indianapolis Colts' running back Jonathan Taylor was on top of the football world back in 2021. He put together a sensational 1,811 yard rushing season to go along with 18 touchdowns on the ground. He earned First Team All-Pro honors, and was narrowly beaten out by Cooper Kupp for Offensive Player of the Year.

To put it bluntly, Taylor was playing at an absurdly high level. The expectations for him entering 2022 were obviously high, as the Colts hoped to ride Taylor's elite play (and the remaining ability of Matt Ryan) into the playoffs. The events that would transpire in 2022 were nothing short of a disaster.

Taylor began the 2022 season on a tear, rushing the ball a combined 40 times for 215 yards and a touchdown in the opening two weeks. He was held in check the following two weeks before suffering what would become the ankle injury from hell against the Tennessee Titans.

Despite the severity of the injury, Taylor returned just two weeks later for the second match-up against the Titans. He remained active for the following two weeks before missing the team's week nine match-up against the New England Patriots.

Taylor returned to action in week 10 against the Las Vegas Raiders, under Interim Head Coach Jeff Saturday, despite already missing three weeks on the year due to that ankle injury. Taylor gutted it out for the next five weeks before the injury became too much to play on. He would go on to miss the remainder of the 2022 season, limiting his games played to just 10.

Despite a rough 2022 season (for both Taylor and the Colts), there was even more optimism for the star player heading into this past year. New Head Coach Shane Steichen was the architect behind a dangerous rushing attack in Philadelphia and exciting new quarterback Anthony Richardson was set to pull defenders out of the box for Taylor to exploit. Unfortunately, that optimism failed to manifest into results yet again.

Taylor's 2023 offseason would be filled with turmoil, as the star running back was stuck in a contract dispute with the team that leaked over to the public square. Matters were made worse when Taylor didn't take the practice field (mostly due to the lingering effect of the ankle injury), and the situation deteriorated enough to where Taylor requested a trade from the organization.

Cooler heads prevailed in the end, and Taylor inked a three year extension with the Colts once he returned from the PUP list in early October. Taylor was still ailing due to that ankle injury he suffered over a year prior, but the star player was finally back in the mix. He slowly acclimated to the new offense, and got healthier, over the following six weeks in the lineup. In a game against the Tampa Buccaneers in week 12, Taylor popped off for 91 yards and two scores on the ground.

Unfortunately that joy was short lived, as Taylor suffered another injury that sidelined him for a month. Right when he began to gain momentum in this new offense, Taylor was back to the bench with a thumb injury that required surgery. He returned to the lineup for the final three weeks of the season, but his overall campaign was once again limited to just 10 games.

Taylor led the NFL with 332 carries for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns in 17 games played back in 2021. The First Team All-Pro running back appeared to be entering a prime of dominance for the Indianapolis Colts. Since that season, however, Taylor has totaled 361 rushes for 1,602 yards and 11 touchdowns in 20 games played.

This upcoming season is a massive one to see if Taylor can ultimately return to the dominant force he once was.

Jonathan Taylor reached the fastest speed by a ball-carrier this season (22.13 mph), and now is responsible for three of the top 5 fastest speeds.

📸: Top 5 Fastest Speeds by Ball-Carriers (2021 Season)@JayT23 | #ForTheShoe

— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 19, 2021

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The introduction to this piece paints a bleak picture, but there is reason to be excited for Taylor and his potential to bounce back in 2024. For starters, Taylor simply hasn't been healthy since September of 2022. Whether it was the ankle injury or the thumb injury, Taylor has been in a constant state of repair for well over a year. At the moment, he is finally healthy and fully able to go in this current training camp.

Taylor had this to say last week about being in that constant state of injury last season:

"That’s always tough too because now you’re trying to repair after every game. When you’re coming in fresh, then it’s just a matter of maintaining rather than getting back. Maintaining, putting yourself back together every single week. It’s tough – you know it’s a violent game. Of course like I said, things will change. There will be something that you have to fight through or there will be something that you will have to manage. As long as you come in prepared and as ready as possible you set yourself up for success. Like I said, it’s a violent game so anything can happen."

Rather than prioritizing recovery and piecing himself together, Taylor can finally attack the playbook and build chemistry with the players and the staff around him. His is a full go in every sense of the word.

The other forgotten factor in this equation is that Taylor didn't play particularly bad the past two season despite the major injuries. It was far from the standard that he set back in 2021, but he averaged a healthy 4.4 yards per carry the past two seasons. He continued to be a strong contributor in the redzone when he was on the field, and his yards after contact per attempt numbers remained fairly strong (he was 8th among starting running backs in that department last season).

Taylor may not have looked like himself the past two seasons, but he was still far from a bad running back over that span.

Jonathan Taylor only saw 40+ offensive snaps last season in 6 games. He had 15+ carries in just seven games and 20+ carries in just three games.

He still managed to hit 741 yards rushing on a modest 4.4 yards per carry despite the injuries/lack of an offseason

— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 10, 2024

The last major factor is how Taylor finished the 2023 season. After a disastrous two year span, Taylor easily could have packed it in to close out last season in order to get ready for 2024. He did anything but that in the final two weeks of the season.

In two must-win games for the Colts, Taylor carried the offense on his back. He rushed for 96 yards and a score against the Las Vegas Raiders in week 17, leading the team to a narrow victory. In a "win or go home" finale against the Houston Texans, Taylor exploded for one of the more dominant single game rushing performances in years.

Taylor carried the ball 30 times for 188 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' heartbreaking loss to the Texans in week 18. Taylor had eight rushing attempts that went for 10+ yards in that outing, which is the most in a single game by a running back since Derrick Henry had eight back in 2020 (ironically against the Colts). Taylor also forced eight missed tackles against a solid Texans' defense.

Jonathan Taylor is such a fun mix of finesse and power runner. He can drag defenders 10+ yards down the field but also send dudes flying with a juke in the open field

— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 10, 2024

Taylor's final outing of the 2023 season was everything the fanbase needed to see from the star. He was quick, decisive, explosive, and powerful all game long as he nearly carried this offense to a victory over a playoff team. He was simply Jonathan Taylor again, and that is the last image that this fanbase has of the star rusher heading into this offseason.

Taylor returning to dominance in that finale is perfectly lining up with the return of Anthony Richardson at quarterback. The dreams that every fan had prior to last year about this lethal 1-2 punch could come true in 2024. Factor in that the Colts' running back depth doesn't feature anyone to threaten Taylor for playing time, and the stars are aligning for the Colts to lean on their top player this upcoming season.

Jonathan Taylor has been through it all the past two seasons, but this year feels like the time for him to finally get right. He is healthy for training camp, he is in an offense built to prop him up, and he is going to be force fed the ball. Taylor is set to explode for a dominant 2024 season for the Indianapolis Colts.

Jonathan Taylor's ability as a problem solver in the backfield is an underrated aspect of his game. He creates so much extra yardage by being able to find exit lanes when the play breaks down

— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 10, 2024

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Colts' Jonathan Taylor Set to Return to Elite Status in 2024 (2024)
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