Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. That’s something Jonathan Taylor learned very early in his NFL career.
Taylor knew he’d have a prominent role with the Indianapolis Colts after they selected him with the 41st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. What he didn’t know, however, was that Marlon Mack would go down with a torn Achilles during the first week of the regular season.
Even though Taylor had to learn on the fly, the Wisconsin product proved late in the season that he could carry the Colts’ running game. He finished his rookie year with 232 carries for 1,169 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The Colts also received solid production out of Taylor in the passing game, as he had 36 receptions for 299 yards and a touchdown.
That type of production for a rookie is impressive regardless of what year it takes place, but when you factor in all the obstacles that COVID-19 presented in 2020, it makes it truly astounding. Now that he’ll have a full offseason in front of him, Taylor can work on his skillset while adjusting to life with Carson Wentz as his quarterback.
We sat down with Jonathan Taylor this week to discuss his rookie season, what he expects to accomplish in 2021, if the locker room has accepted Carson Wentz and much more.
The Spun: How has it been to have a legitimate training program under your belt for the first time in your NFL career?
Jonathan Taylor: It’s really nice. Now, especially after being on the team, the OTA program is a great time to be around teammates you haven’t seen and new teammates. You get a feel for your new team. Each team is different each year. Rookies coming in this year will have that rookie minicamp and OTAs to learn instead of just jumping into training camp like last year. I think it’s been really fun and helpful. You can get more familiar with the playbook and get live reps.
#Colts Jonathan Taylor led the NFL in catch percentage last season at 92.3%.
If Taylor is featured more as a pass catcher in 2021, he could approach 2,000 yards from scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/0YbV7XFVbG
— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) June 6, 2021
The Spun: You are one of only 11 rookies in NFL history to rush for at least 1,100 yards and average five or more yards per carry. How would you grade your rookie season?
JT: It definitely wasn’t anything I expected because of the organization I went to and the running back room they had with Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack. Imagine working with those guys, and then in the blink of an eye, unfortunately, Marlon goes down after having an amazing camp. You just knew he was primed to have an amazing year. Everything completely changed after that. I had to learn on the fly each week. As the season went along, things were more comfortable and all I had to do was work out the fine details. I was able to play fast and smart. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but looking back at how things played out, I definitely didn’t expect that. With a full offseason this year though, I’m looking forward to seeing what a true NFL season is like.
The Spun: How has Carson Wentz been in the locker room thus far? I saw he was playing knockout during OTAs.
JT: It’s nice being around Carson. I got to speak to him a little bit about where he stayed back when he was in Philly – it was actually super close to my hometown. I was just asking him how he even found that area when he worked there. He brings great energy to the team. As you mentioned before, a quarterback doesn’t have to play knockout in order to bring great vibes and energy. You can see his energy jump off the screen by watching the video. He’s also really dedicated to his work. He was asking a ton of questions when we had virtual meetings to see how we do things. The coaches and players here are trying to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. The quarterback position is a tough one – you’re stepping into a leadership role. Everyone has let him know that we’re excited to work with him. I’m excited for the city of Indianapolis to see what he brings to the table. We’ve seen glimpses of it in practice. I think it should be a really, really fun time and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Carson Wentz and Mo Alie-Cox traded buckets in an electric game of knockout ♨️
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) May 25, 2021
The Spun: What’s the most notable difference between Carson Wentz and Philip Rivers?
JT: I still have to wait and see, but you know that Philip can get pretty passionate out there on the field. I can’t wait too see how Carson’s style is on the field, but I’d definitely say from playing with Philip, I can see his passion and fiery nature on the field. It’s something that I definitely get a kick out of when I think about it. I can’t wait to see how Carson brings his energy and new dynamic to the team this year on the field.
The Spun: The Colts always tweet out the saying ‘Run the damn ball.’ How dangerous can this running back room be this fall?
JT: I think we can be really dangerous. Like I said earlier, the type of camp Marlon had last year was impressive. He’s been preparing the exact same way in his rehab. I can’t wait to get out there and watch him show the world what he was going to show them last year. We have a dynamic room with dynamic runners – you can see that with Nyheim. The guy did a 360-degree corkscrew flip after scoring a touchdown. We just have a lot of juice in that room and we have a great rapport. I think that’s when a running back room is dangerous, when everyone wants to see each other do well when they get their opportunity.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) April 9, 2021
The Spun: Switching gears here, who do you think is the greatest running back of all time?
JT: My top three would have to be Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson. Eric Dickerson’s season in 1984 was completely ridiculous. He just had his own complete style. Walter Payton is one of the gold standards for running backs. And then Adrian Peterson is one of the greatest and he’s still in action. It’s mind-boggling to think about it when you know the punishment your body takes every year. I want to add that Arian Foster was one of my favorites growing up because of how smooth he was. He’s one of the reasons why I wore No. 23 in college.
The Spun: What’s your excitement level for Wisconsin this season?
JT: I’m really excited. Last year, a lot of things were thrown off and out of whack due to COVID-19. I can’t imagine the protocols they had in college to protect all the players. I can tell you one thing for sure, the Badgers will go out there and dominate, regardless if they’re at home or on the road. I’m really excited to see them ball out and have another good year.
The Spun: What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your rookie season?
JT: One of the most valuable lessons I would say is that you have to be ready. With Marlon going down, that opened my eyes and made me realize anything can happen at any moment. You need to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready when your number is called. If there’s a certain play where I need to be in the slot, I need to be ready. The veterans told me to know my playbook. I thought they meant to know the plays, but it really means to know what everyone is supposed to be doing because you’ll never know where you’ll be at. It takes all 11 guys on the field to win. You need to be ready and how to play your role. I’m ready for whatever challenge is thrown my way. Also, I learned how to be a great teammate. Even when Marlon was hurt, he’d text us words of encouragement and gave us some pointers. Those are two lessons I’ll take into this year.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) June 5, 2021
The Spun: What can NFL fans expect from Jonathan Taylor this fall?
JT: I definitely want to go out there and start with my best foot forward. Things changed quickly for me last year. Being able to put my best foot forward early will help a lot. I feel really comfortable now and I’m not too occupied by getting adjusted to the game speed or playbook. I have a sense of how to do my job efficiently. Now, I want to go out there and play with confidence. I’m excited because I know I have time to perfect my craft.
The Spun: How excited are you to have fans in the stands this year?
JT: That’s going to be so exciting. We went to Buffalo for our last game and it was loud there – NFL fans are super loud. I know college stadiums get loud, but NFL fans can absolutely roar as well even at smaller numbers. I’m sure we’ll have loud games this year. I’m excited to feed off that fan environment. A big third-down conversion or a big stop are the ones you look forward to as a player. I don’t even know what the feeling is going to be like, but I know it’s at a whole different level in the NFL. I just can’t wait for it.
Jonathan Taylor RB1 pic.twitter.com/zd3kN0b38s
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 11, 2021
With another year in Frank Reich’s system, Jonathan Taylor could take his game to the next level this fall. If he does, the Colts’ running game should be among the best in the NFL.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.