If the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, it won’t be because of Jonathan Taylor. With the rookie running back heading to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Colts just lost their rising star ahead of a difficult matchup.
Will Indianapolis find a way to generate points without Taylor in the lineup? Or will Tennessee get revenge for losing to Philip Rivers and Co. earlier this month?
Jonathan Taylor has carried the load in his rookie season
Following a dominant career at Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor entered the 2020 NFL draft as one of the top running back prospects. The 5-foot-10, 226-pound playmaker didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called. After taking Taylor with the 41st pick, the Colts have wasted no time making him the focal point of their offense.
Although Taylor ran for just 22 yards in his NFL debut, he racked up 101 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in his second game as a pro.
Despite never topping 100 rushing yards again, the former Badger has played a critical role as an every-down back. Through 10 games (eight starts), Taylor has racked up 518 yards and four touchdowns on a team-high 135 carries. Plus, he ranks fourth on the team with 26 receptions.
Overall, the first-year back leads all Colts players with 745 yards from scrimmage. However, Taylor won’t have a chance to add to that impressive total this week.
The Colts just lost their best rising star to COVID-19
In the midst of a rock-solid rookie campaign, Jonathan Taylor will miss Sunday’s matchup against the Titans. On Saturday, the Colts announced that the dynamic running back has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero provided more details about the running back’s current health status via Twitter. According to Pelissero, Taylor’s girlfriend found out on Friday that she tested positive for COVID-19 following an out-of-town trip.
The Colts running back has not tested positive himself, but he has been quarantined since his girlfriend’s positive diagnosis. And because of league protocols, he won’t play on Sunday.
Losing Taylor represents a brutal blow for Indianapolis given his dual-threat abilities and importance to the offense. After all, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines have not impressed on limited carries. Unfortunately for Colts fans, the team has also ruled out several other key players for Sunday.
The Colts will be shorthanded against the Titans
With Jonathan Taylor out due to COVID-19 protocols, the Colts must find a way to replicate his production. But whoever carries the ball may struggle to find open running lanes based on another major personnel loss.
Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly will also miss Sunday’s matchup against the Titans. The former first-round pick missed Wednesday’s practice with a neck injury. Rookie Danny Pinter—who has played a total of 27 offensive snaps all season—will likely take over the pivot position.
In addition, the Colts’ fifth-ranked scoring defense will also be missing some familiar faces. Star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner got placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Denico Autry, another starter along the defensive line, also landed on the list.
Plus, dynamic second-year linebacker Bobby Okereke has been ruled out due to an ankle injury. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder has racked up 54 tackles, four passes defended, one interception, and one forced fumble while playing 81% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Ultimately, the Colts’ depth will be put to the test against a Titans team seeking revenge for their 34-17 home loss to Indy in Week 10. And with both AFC South franchises sitting at 7-3, there are certainly major playoff implications on the line.
Let’s see if Indianapolis can overcome its personnel issues in order to sweep Tennessee. If not, the race for the division title will become much more interesting.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.