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Following in Edgerrin James’ footsteps, Jonathan Taylor inching closer to being the Indianapolis Colts’ next star RB – Indianapolis Colts Blog

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INDIANAPOLIS – The list of running backs consistently grew year after year.

Donald Brown. Trent Richardson. Frank Gore. Marlon Mack.

Each tried to be the Indianapolis Colts‘ next dominant back but failed for a variety of reasons. None of them could be the running back opposing defenses feared the same way they did with Hall of Famer Edgerrin James during his seven seasons with the organization.

Jonathan Taylor is currently taking his turn at it, and the results so far have many in — and out — of the organization believing the second-year back is their best player at that position since James.

“I’m talking as an analyst and also a former player for the team — he is the best one since Edge,” former Colts center and current ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday said. “I think what he provides is every play could go for a touchdown. Whether it’s in the screen game, a check down, giving it to him between the tackles or outside. Every play could potentially go the house.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay has never been one to hold back on his expectations (he has predicted multiple Super Bowl titles this decade). That’s why he didn’t flinch as he sat behind a table on a hot and humid day during training camp when talking about his featured running back.

“You don’t want to put too much on a young back and those sort of things, but Jonathan, if he dreams about a gold [Hall of Fame] jacket at night, he’s having the right dream because there’s reality there and a lot has to happen,” Irsay said back in August. “… You can’t put any limits on what he can do. He’s got it all. He has the power, he has the speed. He’s a special, special player.”

Best Colts RB since Edgerrin James?

As the Colts (3-5) face the New York Jets on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network), it’s way too early to think about Taylor putting on a gold jacket in Canton, Ohio. For now, the Colts are embracing and enjoying what he has accomplished so far in the NFL. Going back to 1970, Taylor’s 1,818 yards rushing in 23 games are second in franchise history only to James’ 2,335 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“Running backs are really, really difficult to place and figure out in the NFL,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “Seems like those can’t-miss guys or the Derrick Henrys, they don’t come along too often. You’re always looking for them, always looking for the right fit.

“The Colts have had several really, really good backs, but getting that franchise Hall of Fame back is not that easy. I think Jonathan is showing signs of being that, and you hope he’ll be the long-term answer. Always worried about injuries with running backs, but short of that, he’s going to be great.”

Taylor’s glowing, smiling, outgoing personality, combined with his power and speed, have led to plenty of success for him on and off the field.

In fact, he has arguably been the best running back in the NFL this season not named Derrick Henry, the Tennessee Titans back that’s leading the league in rushing.

Taylor is tops in the league with 6.4 scrimmage yards per touch (minimum 75). And despite having the fifth-most rushes in the NFL, he is second to only Henry in rushing yards (937/649), yards after contact (496/404) and yards from scrimmage (1,091/914).

However, Henry’s season is over because of a foot injury suffered against the Colts in Week 8. That means Taylor is now arguably the top active running back in the NFL.

“They said I could be one of the best in college, but that was just my mindset already, … how can I be the best version of myself at each and every single level?” Taylor said. “At the high school level, collegiate level and now the NFL level because it doesn’t matter how many yards you had last week or how many touchdowns you had last week. It’s how many yards or touchdowns did you have this week, in this game? It’s just how can you be the best each and every single week?”

From a slow start to elite

The transition to being put in the same category of some of today’s elite running backs like Henry, Ezekiel Elliott and Nick Chubb hasn’t been an easy one for Taylor.

He entered his rookie season in 2020 as the backup to Mack. That lasted less than a full game because Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1. Then Taylor had to learn that he was no longer at Wisconsin, where he just had to take the ball and run.

The NFL was different.

Taylor had to be patient, read the blocks and wait for the running lane to open up — then go. It was a struggle for Taylor, as he started losing snaps to Nyheim Hines during part of the season. But Taylor closed out his rookie season by rushing for 741 yards over the final five games to finish with 1,169 yards on the season.

In Year 2, Taylor has added a new dimension, expanding his role in the passing game. In addition to 649 yards rushing, he is second on the team in receiving yards with 265. That includes three plays of at least 20 yards, like the screen pass he caught and took 76 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5.

“That guy is special, man, he has special talent,” veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “He’s powerful, he’s speedy in the open field and he’s a guy we can lean on [in] the run game, pass game. He’s catching passes, taking screens to the house and is a big, key piece to this offense.”

Settling in as Colts’ star running back

Taylor is arguably underused out of the backfield. It was just a couple weeks ago that coach Frank Reich said Taylor deserves at least 20 carries a game. That’s a great thought and all, but Taylor still hasn’t had 20 carries all season after having four such outings as a rookie.

The Colts are 6-0 when Taylor has rushed for at least 100 yards in a game.

“I’m not interested in just getting his rushing total,” Reich said this week. “That’s certainly a big deal. He’s a dynamic player in the pass game as well. Believe me, I want to get him as many rushing attempts as we can.”

The Colts haven’t had a player rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Joseph Addai did it in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Taylor should accomplish that feat this season, barring injury. But it’s more than just barely topping 1,000 yards. Taylor has proved he’s a threat for a big play every time he touches the ball. He’s the best offensive player on the Colts and one could argue he’s the best overall player on the roster.

With each carry or catch that leads to a big play or touchdown, Taylor runs further away from being in the same category as Richardson and Brown and closer to Edgerrin and Marshall Faulk.

“You play the game to be one of the best,” Taylor said. “You play the game to be a winner. So I feel like everyone should dream to get a gold jacket one day.”

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Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle establishing himself as a No. 1 receiver – Miami Dolphins Blog

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MIAMI — Jaylen Waddle was the last Miami Dolphins player to enter the news conference room Sunday after the team’s 33-10 romp against the Carolina Panthers. He was fresh off a nine-catch, 137-yard performance — and he was dressed like it.

Waddle wore a black-and-white checkered hoodie with a red shirt underneath, white designer jeans with red splatter on them and a spotless pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes. He even kept his black Ray-Ban sunglasses perched atop his nose; when you play like that, you can wear whatever you want.

The Dolphins rookie has cemented himself as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver during its current four-game winning streak, compiling 346 yards and a touchdown on 29 catches. He has 77 catches for 759 yards and four touchdowns, and is one of seven players in the NFL with more than 100 targets. He is on pace for 109 receptions, which would surpass the only other rookie in league history with 100 or more catches — Anquan Boldin — who had 101 in 2003 with the Arizona Cardinals.

“Preparation, practice,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said of Waddle’s emergence. “I think we worked at it and worked at it and worked at it, and we’ve been able to string some good weeks together from a practice standpoint, and you’re seeing that show up in the game.”

Miami traded up to draft him at No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, in an effort to rekindle some of the chemistry that made Waddle and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a potent tandem at Alabama. While the early results were promising — Waddle was the team’s leading receiver entering Week 12 — Sunday’s victory felt like an official arrival, of sorts.

And it surprisingly came against the NFL’s best pass defense.

The Panthers had allowed 174.2 passing yards per game entering Week 12, playing more man coverage than all but three teams in the NFL. Tagovailoa picked them apart underneath, completing 23 of 24 passes of 10 or fewer air yards for 141 of his 230 total passing yards Sunday.

The second-year passer said it was Carolina’s coverage tendencies that made his efficient day possible.

“They played a lot of man, and when they did play zone, we tried to take advantage of in-cuts, crossers, things like that, so it’s really what we expected, and what they showed us out there,” he said.

The chemistry between Tagovailoa and Waddle has been striking.

Since Tagovailoa’s return from injured reserve in Week 6, Waddle is the NFL’s third-most targeted receiver and leads the league in receptions with 50. His 528 receiving yards in that span trail only Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp‘s 618.

“Jaylen has just been in the right place at the right time,” Tagovailoa said. “There’s times where he gets covered and he is still open, so you take a look at one of the third downs that we had. I think it was 26. Donte Jackson covering him. It was really good coverage. [Jaylen] still got open.”

Tagovailoa is hesitant to attribute their effectiveness to their time together at Alabama — that was two years ago, after all. But their experience in college laid a foundation to make them successful at this level.

Waddle said Tagovailoa has grown as a player, which has inspired him to try to do the same each week. Initially known as a field-stretching vertical threat coming out of college, Waddle has worked to sharpen his entire route tree during this recent stretch.

“I work extremely hard not to just be known as a speed guy or a vertical threat. I’m just going to continue to try to go out there every week and show I can actually run routes and do things that people don’t expect me to do.”

The rookie has also broken out a new touchdown celebration during this win streak, in which he pins his arms to his sides, palms outstretched, and waddles like a penguin.

He said he used to be laughed at for it, particularly by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who now does it with him.

Maybe those who thought Miami made a mistake by drafting Waddle instead of fellow receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) or DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles) can take a page from Wilkins’ book and hop on board, as well.



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Dallas Cowboys haven’t asked me to sit vs. New Orleans Saints

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott does not want to take a game off despite a bruised right knee.

“No one’s came to me and asked me to rest,” Elliott said Sunday as the Cowboys opened up preparation for Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

If they do, Elliott said he would listen.

“I’ve just got to go with what they believe is best for the team,” he said.

Elliott said he has been dealing with the injury since banging it in the Oct. 3 win against the Carolina Panthers.

A day after the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, coach Mike McCarthy expressed concern for Elliott’s health after Elliott had just 25 yards on nine carries. The running back has not topped 51 yards in his last four games, the lowest-output of his career.

“It’s that time of year,” McCarthy said. “Zeke’s running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that and this week we’ll see what the preparation looks like for him.”

A source told ESPN the Cowboys will consider providing Elliott some time off to heal, including the possibility of holding him out of Thursday’s game. The source does not believe placing Elliott on injured reserve is a consideration at this time. That would require him Elliott to miss at least three games.

The Cowboys have scaled back Elliott’s snaps in the last four games to help manage the injury. He has played 164 of 280 offensive snaps (58.5%) after playing in 379 of 451 snaps (84%) in the first seven games of the season.

Elliott has missed just one game in his career because of injury (calf strain last December vs. the San Francisco 49ers). He was held out of the season finales in 2016 and ’18 because the Cowboys’ playoff position was set, and he was suspended for six games in 2017.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” right guard Zack Martin said. “We see it on a day in, day out basis and I think everyone is seeing it. He takes great pride in being there for his teammates and doing whatever he can in his power to help this team win. For me, he’s one of the top competitors I’ve been around, and he’s going to keep doing that.”

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Follow live: Lamar returns for Ravens in AFC North showdown vs. Browns

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