INDIANAPOLIS – We are inching closer and closer to the 2021 NFL football season.
It’s time to pick back up our ‘burning questions’ series on 1075TheFan.com.
Here are our burning questions at the running back position heading into the 2021 Training Camp:
Is Jonathan Taylor One Of The NFL’s Best Running Backs?
If we are going off last year’s rushing leaders, the answer is already ‘yes.’
Jonathan Taylor finished his rookie season ranked 3rd in the NFL, with 1,169 rushing yards. Of course, Derrick Henry (2,027 yards) and Dalvin Cook (1,557 yards) were in different leagues than even Taylor.
Still, if you are asking someone to name the top 4 or 5 running backs in the league, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Taylor’s name missing.
What Taylor showed to end his rookie season though is a strong indicator that he belongs in the ‘elite’ category, and is also here to stay.
The Colts should treat Taylor as their bell cow back, even with the strong and diverse depth within that room.
If Taylor takes the expected stride in Year Two, particularly with consistency, the Colts are going to have one of the league’s best runners.
STAT TO NOTE: Taylor finished his rookie season with 7 straight games of at least 74 yards rushing. No other player in the NFL achieved such a stretch last season.
Will Nyheim Hines’ Usage Be The Same In 2021?
It’s interesting to look at the 3-year stats for Nyheim Hines, with him playing 16 games every season:
2018: 85 rushes for 314 yards (3.7 yards per carry), 63 catches for 425 yards
2019: 52 rushes for 199 yards (3.8 yards per carry), 44 catches for 320 yards
2020: 89 rushes for 380 yards (4.3 yards per carry), 63 catches for 482 yards
Where Hines really grew last season was as a runner, especially in between the tackles.
That effort from Hines sent a message to the coaching staff, no matter the health situation at running back, No. 21 needs consistent touches. Period.
A healthy Marlon Mack is back in 2021, but he doesn’t have the same skillset as Hines.
Hines is a weapon that cannot be ignored, even if the cupboard is stocked pretty well at this position.
It is also a contract year for Hines, so you know he would love a similar usage to what we saw last year, when Mack went down in the season opener.
The 2020 campaign was so important for Hines to prove himself as a multidimensional option, which is something that Frank Reich loves when deploying his skill players.
STAT TO NOTE: Hines’ average yards per carry climbed to 4.3 last season, after averages of 3.7 and 3.8 in his first two years in the NFL.
What Will Be The Role For Marlon Mack?
First, Marlon Mack looked pretty darn healthy back in the spring.
Mack is now 10 months removed from tearing his ACL and the Colts are very optimistic about his rehab from an injury that can decimate careers of running backs.
When dividing up touches/carries for Mack, who is playing in another contract year, it’s hard to get a great gauge on things.
Does it make sense for Mack to take a series or two per game to keep Taylor fresh?
Is that enough for Mack? Should Taylor be sidelined for an entire series each half?
This is difficult to weigh, knowing that a healthy Mack is a really effective runner, with proven production in this league.
STAT TO NOTE: Marlon Mack played just over a quarter last season, before tearing his Achilles in the season opener. In that contest, Mack averaged 6.5 yards per carry (4 carries for 26 yards) and had 3 catches for 30 yards.