Following the Rookies: AFC South Indianapolis Colts
The Colts traded their 1st round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive tackle Deforest Buckner. So far that trade has worked out, with Buckner the Colts defense has given up an average of 19.4 points per game which ranks 5th best in the NFL. With their later picks in the draft, the Colts made some very good choices regarding the talent they have brought in. Some of these players that I am going to highlight are running back Jonathan Taylor and safety Julian Blackmon. I was lucky enough to be able to watch both of these players' final years in college where Taylor was an animal in his years at Wisconsin and Blackmon was a converted cornerback who thrived in his role as a deep, single high safety at Utah.
Jonathan Taylor was the definition of a workhorse back in college where he racked up over 1000 carried in his college career. In his first year in the NFL, he has started in 6 of the 7 games he has played in, taking over the starting role from Marlon Mack after he was injured resulting in him missing the rest of the season. Taylor has taken 100 carries for 389 yards with an average of about 3.9 yards per carry with 3 touchdowns. In the receiving game, he has been targeted 19 times, bringing in 18 receptions for 171 yards. He has topped 20 carries in a game only once in 7 games. Taylor is underperforming, to say the least. The Colts offensive line has been performing as a top 10 unit yet Taylor has struggled to get going. Part of this could be due to an injury that the Colts only just released after last week's game against the Lions but I believe Taylor thrives only when he gets 20-25 carries in a game. Taylor is the type of back who gets better as the game goes on and he needs to receive the bulk load of carries to achieve his full potential and whether it be the Colts unwillingness to commit to Taylor as a workhorse or the fact that they believe they are better by using a running back committee is yet to be seen. In college, Taylor showed that he can not only handle a massive workload but he can produce under the conditions that the defense knows he is running the ball on the majority of plays. His usage will be very interesting to watch as the season goes as because that can answer the question of how healthy he truly is and if that is the real reason he isn't getting the workload many people expected him to get.
Julian Blackmon was drafted in the 3rd round by the Colts as a safety precaution to former 1st round pick Malik Hooker who has not been able to stay healthy for a 16 game schedule. Hooker tore his Achilles to add to the list of injuries he has suffered over his career. Once this happened, Blackmon took over the free safety role where he previously thrived in his last college season. Blackmon is coming off of surgery for a torn ACL so the Colts wanted to ease him into play. He has played in 6 games, starting in 5 of them, recording 2 interceptions, 4 passes defended, and 14 tackles (12 solo/2 assisted). He has a slight frame, at 187lbs, that can show up in the way that he tackles since he always goes low for legs/ankles but he does find a way to get the ball carrier down. He is best as a single high safety where he can read routes and the QBs eyes and make plays on the ball as he has very good ball skills. On his first interception of the year, he was just in the right place at the right time on a throw that went through a Bear's receiver's hands right to him. His second interception was a very impressive play to clinch the game against the Bengals. On this play, he was lined up as a free safety in a 2 high alignment where he was responsible for half the field. The Colts set up a blitz so he knew Burrow was going to have to get the ball out quickly. Blackmon locked in on Burrow's eyes where Tyler Boyd was running a deep seam route over the middle of the field and Blackmon made an excellent jump on the ball to come down with the interception and clinch the game.