Indianapolis Colts star RB Jonathan Taylor saw ramped-up action in his 2nd game back from the Physically Unable to Perform List. The ground game for Indy was held in check against the Jaguars, though this allowed for Jonathan Taylor to begin to show some stability as a pass catcher. In particular, Taylor’s usual explosiveness was on full display amidst his first big play, yardage-wise, in 2023. Jack Guiley breaks down the play in question.
Not many things went right for the Colts offensively last week in Jacksonville.
One of the few bright spots came from Jonathan Taylor on a 40-yard catch and run that set up one of the frequent Gardner Minshew interceptions.
I wanted to do a quick dive into the All-22 from this play, as the design of this play showcased Shane Steichen’s desire to get the ball into the hands of his best playmaker.
Last week Shane Steichen got Jonathan Taylor more involved but this time in the passing game.
Caught the defense in man coverage, created a headstart by motioning JT in and snapping soon thereafter. The pick play concept works to perfection and JT is off and running for 40 yds. pic.twitter.com/B0kUb4d7a8
— Noah Compton (@nerlens_) October 21, 2023
Pre-snap Jonathan Taylor is split out wide to a balanced formation, with the ball in the middle of the field and Gardner Minshew alone in the backfield. Taylor is split far outside the numbers, a rare occurrence that probably had Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd confused.
Immediately as Lloyd shades inside of Taylor, he goes in motion with Lloyd trailing, signaling man coverage. Minshew can instantly diagnose the coverage with five defensive lineman rushing, and five plus a single safety in coverage. Minshew knows that unless one of the pass rushers drops into a robber zone, which is unlikely because that would require a big man to drop into the middle of the field quickly, he has a concept that will beat man coverage.
Steichen dials up a mesh concept that takes out four of the six potential threats to Taylor’s underneath drag route. Two outside vertical routes occupy the outside cornerbacks, who have their back to the line of scrimmage. A third vertical takes the slot defender across the field and holds the safety in place while Josh Downs and Taylor run dueling drag routes six yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
These two drag routes act as a pick that actually results in Tre Herndon falling down. Steichen designed the play so that Taylor has a running start going into the route, and this makes it extremely difficult for a linebacker, even one with Devin Lloyd’s speed, to catch up.
The pre-snap running motion, alongside the mesh “pick” from Josh Downs creates a ton of open room for Taylor to create. However, the true reason this play worked so well was Shane Steichen’s timing of the call. The Colts’ rookie head coach dialed up a man-beating concept in a situation where the Jaguars were likely to be in it. Even if they weren’t originally in man coverage, it is usually the best option against empty, especially with how aggressive the Jaguars had been all day in calling it to match up with the Colts receivers.
Jonathan Taylor is going to have to create many more of these “explosive” plays over the course of the next 11 games if the Colts want to be in the hunt for a wildcard spot come January. Hopefully, this was the first of many this season for the Colts’ star running back.
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