Jonathan Taylor has been back with the Indianapolis Colts for quite some time now.
However, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is preparing to see Taylor back in full force on Sunday.
“We’re ready for that, if that’s what it is,” Stefanski said Wednesday, via team transcript, when asked if he expected to see Taylor back in his RB1 spot in Week 7. “I think they have multiple guys. They can put a bunch of guys in there, have a ton of respect for Jonathan Taylor, and we do anticipate that his workload increases as the games go on here. But they have multiple guys that can hurt you with the ball in their hand.”
Taylor began the season on the physically unable to perform list due to an ankle injury and amid contract squabbles with the Colts, who eventually signed the 2021 All-Pro to an extension.
Upon his 2023 debut, Taylor had just seven touches in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans and then upped his usage to 13 touches against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6. Indianapolis’ running game has been stymied for the season with the loss of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, who had 136 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in four games, but a full-strength Taylor could be a game changer.
Whether Taylor will be back to being the Indy workhorse remains to be seen on Sunday, but Stefanski is confident his squad will be prepared. Statistics suggest he should be.
The Browns defense has been stellar in 2023, ranking first in the NFL in yards allowed, fifth in points given up and fourth against the run.
Taylor — or any Indy rusher — will likely need to pack a lunch for a long day ahead.
“To play any good defense, good offense, run defense, run offense, you have to have eleven guys on the same page doing their job,” Stefanski said. “And I think that’s what you see.”
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As aforementioned, what Stefanski has seen is a formidable Colts rushing attack that has been surprisingly successful without Taylor. Fourteenth in the league in yards gained on the ground, Indy has been buoyed by Zack Moss, whose 466 rushing yards lead the AFC. It’s a credit to rookie head coach Shane Steichen, according to Stefanski.
“Good run scheme with what coach Steichen brought with him from Philly,” Stefanski said of the former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator. “Really good run scheme. I think a good offensive line, physical. They have a good RPO package. Again, that’s stuff that coach Steichen’s done over his career, so it makes life hard on the defense. You really have to have a plan when you’re defending this type of attack.”
Cleveland is coming off a Week 6 upset of the San Francisco 49ers in which they held the NFL’s leading rusher, Christian McCaffrey, to a season-low 43 yards before he left with an oblique injury. Sunday offers the latest test for the mighty Browns defense, which is most certainly playing at an elite level heading into its matchup with Taylor, Moss and Indy.
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