Frank Reich wisely got in front of a potential "controversy" when he anointed Marlon Mack as the Colts' starting running back – ahead of rookie running back Jonathan Taylor – before the start of training camp. Mack, the Colts' head coach said, had earned the opportunity to be the starter ahead of Taylor, the third running back selected in the 2020 draft.
While nothing has changed in the six days following Reich's comments, Taylor has certainly made his case to earn significant playing time during his rookie season. On Tuesday, Taylor ripped off several big runs during practice, according to Kevin Bowen of 1070 The Fan. Taylor, who is blessed with both size (he's listed at 5-foot-10 and 226 pounds) and speed (he ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine), apparently also has the vision necessary to make plays at the next level.
"It's very evident for us watching him," Reich said of Taylor's vision on Tuesday, via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. "He's moving vertically through the hole and then [he] suddenly slide steps into space."
Taylor's repertoire allowed him to rush for a staggering 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons at Wisconsin. And while his physical skills are impressive, Taylor's mindset and willingness to be physical are also invaluable parts of his game.
"I embrace it a lot," Taylor said of his physicality, via Stephen Holder of The Athletic. "My coaches have always told me that the best guy on defense is the guy who is moving the chains. … I'm always a guy who embraces keeping the chains moving, and in order to do that, you have to be physical, be willing to grind out some yards. Sometimes you have to be able to just hit a big one. But I think being able to play between the tackles is a huge deal, and I take pride in that."
Andrew Luck's abrupt retirement forced the Colts to focus largely on being a running team in 2019. With Mack leading the way, the Colts were fourth in average rushing attempts per game last season. And while the arrival of Phillip Rivers will certainly lead to a more balanced attack in 2020, the Colts, with Mack and Taylor in tow, will continue to rely on their ground game to generate wins this season.
Reich has not been shy in his praise of Mack, who rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards in 14 games last season. It's clear that Mack, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract, has been motivated by the arrival of Taylor. Reich has also been complimentary of Taylor, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner during his time with the Badgers.
"Jonathan obviously worked really hard in the offseason," Reich said, via the Colts' team website. "Physically he's in top-notch shape. That doesn't surprise me with the type of character he has. And then mentally this guy's really a smart player; he's worked very hard to pick up everything. Coach Tom Rathman's done a good job really catching him up to speed. Jonathan's putting in the extra time. I really think it's gonna help make it a dynamic backfield for us."