Friday, September 23, 2022

Jonathan Taylor vs. Chiefs Coach’s controversial All-Pro RB

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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is something special.

How special? Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo compared him to arguably the most versatile running back of the past decade.

“I see a little bit or a lot of it when Le’Veon Bell was in Pittsburgh,” Spagnuolo told the media on Sept. 22. “And they gave him the ball and he bounced and found it. They would like to see him open because he had a good offensive line and then boom he’s gone.

“He’s obviously going to be the #1 focus.”

Bell played for the Pittsburgh Steelers during his heyday from 2013 to 2017. While Bell never led the NFL in rushing, he was a first-team All Pro in 2014 and 2017 and surpassed 1,800 yards from scrimmage three times in one season.

But Bell was also a controversial player. He was arrested for DUI and marijuana possession prior to his sophomore season and served a two-game suspension in 2015. The following season, he was suspended for three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Steelers failed to agree on a contract extension after his second All-Pro season, placing Bell the franchise tag for the second straight year. Bell then paused the entire 2018 season because of his dissatisfaction with his contract situation.

It’s important to note that Spagnuolo only compared Taylor to Bell on the field. During his press conference, the Chiefs defensive coordinator identified the things that impressed him most about the returning Indianapolis Colts.

“By the time he gets to the second level linebackers, he’s at about 22 mph,” Spagnuolo said, referring to Next Gen Stats. “That’s noticeable. If you let him get to the second level, he’s a tough attack for the back end guys.

“He’s got power, he’s got speed, and I think the scheme that Frank has used with him really suits him.”

In 2017, Bell led the NFL in carries and touches. Last season, Taylor led the league in carries and, ironically, was second in touches against the current Steelers running back Najee Harris.

Bell mustered 7,996 yards from scrimmage in just 62 games for Pittsburgh. At the end of the 2017 season, his nearly 129 yards from scrimmage per game ranked first in NFL history.

During his All-Pro season, Bell recorded more than 80 catches. Taylor isn’t at that level of production as a passcatcher, but he has 81 receptions and 682 receiving yards in 34 career games. He threw for 360 receiving yards, which he added to his 1,811 rushing yards to lead the 2021 NFL with 2,171 yards from scrimmage.

Taylor has averaged 114 yards from scrimmage in his career. That’s currently fourth all-time behind only Jim Brown, Billy Sims and Barry Sanders (among running backs with at least 10 games played).

Bell finished the game with 102.5 yards from scrimmage per game, the 19th-highest average in league history.

The last time the Colts faced the Chiefs, Taylor was at the University of Wisconsin. But Reich’s plan has had success on the ground against Kansas City defenses in the past.

In the last matchup between Colts and Chiefs in October 2019, the Colts rushed for 180 yards with 45 carries. Running back Marlon Mack had 132 rushing yards, while quarterback Jacoby Brissett had a rushing touchdown in Indianapolis’ 19-13 win.

During a playoff game last season, the Colts averaged 6.2 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense. But Indianapolis fell behind, having just 14 rushing attempts in a 31-13 loss.

Obviously, the rosters and coaching staff of both teams have changed a lot in recent years. Spagnuolo was Kansas City’s defensive coordinator in 2018, but not during the playoffs the year before.

Additionally, the Chiefs’ three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones suffered an injury in the October 2019 matchup that benefited the Colts’ ground game. Jones is healthy and has had a good start to the season.

Still, Reich’s formula will likely be largely the same as in the 2019 matchup. Establishing Taylor and dominating on the ground against Jones and the Chiefs is one of the main keys for Indianapolis to pull off an upset win over Kansas City in Week 3.

The last time the Colts faced the Chiefs, Taylor was at the University of Wisconsin. But Reich’s plan has had success on the ground against Kansas City defenses in the past.

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