Now that he is practicing for the first time since August, Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor faces the question of whether he will play in the Colts’ AFC South showdown with the visiting Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
First-year coach Shane Steichen wouldn’t commit to the idea after the Friday practice, saying of Taylor’s status, “We’ll see.”
Taylor missed the first four games of the season recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
“When you have an explosive player like him in the backfield that can hit the home runs, obviously you might get heavier boxes with him running the football,” Steichen said earlier in the week. “It definitely adds a huge element to our offense.”
In his first three years with Indianapolis, Taylor boasts the league’s third-highest yards per carry average among running backs at 5.1 and has amassed 106 runs of at least 10 yards, fourth among all backs.
However, Taylor landed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list while coming off the ankle injury, a designation that some feel was related to his disagreement with the Colts over contract issues. That the sides seem to have arrived at a detente of sorts may have something to do with the fact that every team in the much-maligned division is 2-2, making it eminently winnable.
There’s no doubt that a healthy, productive Taylor could have a positive effect on rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Richardson rallied the team from a 23-0 third quarter deficit last week with two touchdown passes and a scoring run before the Los Angeles Rams walked them off with an overtime touchdown, 29-23.
“I can only imagine what it’s like but we won’t see until it actually happens,” Richardson said. “We’ll see and I’m excited.”
If Taylor is ready to go, it will create a matchup of two of the top running backs in the NFL. Derrick Henry reminded everyone of his impact last week during Tennessee’s 27-3 rout of Cincinnati, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries while throwing a touchdown pass during the Titans’ 21-point second quarter.
Normally a slow starter who hits his stride once the calendar flips into October, Henry became the seventh player since 1966 to amass 8,000 yards and 80 scores within his first eight years. He joins a roll call that includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson.
Henry’s performance was just part of an all-around effort that restored some fans’ faith in Tennessee after a poor performance in a 27-3 loss at Cleveland two weeks ago. Ryan Tannehill threw for 240 yards and a touchdown, while the defense held the Bengals to 211 total yards.
“I believe in that locker room,” Tannehill said after the game. “I believe in the guys. I believe in what we have and what we’re building. Proud of the way we came to work throughout this week to prepare ourselves and look forward to doing the same thing next week.”
The Titans have won five straight meetings with Indianapolis, although the Colts hold a 35-21 advantage in the all-time series.
The Colts announced on Friday that linebacker Shaquille Leonard (groin), defensive end Kwity Paye (concussion) and left tackle Bernhard Raimann (concussion) were ruled out for the Tennessee game.
Four Tennessee players will mis the game: wide receiver Treylon Burks (knee), linebacker Luke Gifford (hamstring), defensive tackle Teair Tart (toe) and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (returning to fitness after suspension).