Vikings Have a Jonathan Taylor Problem

Vikings Have a Jonathan Taylor Problem

More than a few Minnesota Vikings fans are familiar with Indianapolis Colts standout running back Jonathan Taylor. He played college ball next door for the University of Wisconsin and, despite failing to deliver on the hype, was consistently a top fantasy football pick this year.

Coming into U.S. Bank Stadium this week, how does Ed Donatell’s defense slow him down?

In the past five weeks, Minnesota has allowed opposing offenses to surpass 400 yards against them. While most of that has come through the air with a terribly porous secondary, there’s no denying that Jeff Saturday will hope his lead back can carry the load. With Matt Ryan back under center for the Colts, Indianapolis will likely lean heavily on their talented back.

This season has not gone as planned for Jonathan Taylor. After leading the league with more than 1,800 rushing yards a season ago, Taylor is on pace to just slightly surpass 1,200 in 2022. Averaging 106 yards per game last season was an eye-popping number, but that has dropped 20 yards all the way down to 86 this year. His 4.5 yards per carry is a career low, and he’s gone over the century mark just twice through 10 games.

Vikings Have a Jonathan Taylor Problem
Aug 20, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings Have a Jonathan Taylor Problem

For Minnesota, the key will be keeping Taylor away from the big breaks. Taylor averaged over 150 yards in games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans this season. The Vikings can review film of both games to dissect what went wrong. He has been held under 90 yards in three straight weeks and has failed to rack up at least 80 yards in five contests this season.

While the Vikings find themselves in a horrible spot through the air, they’ve roughly held their own against the run. Ranking in the middle of the pack by yards per game, it will certainly be beneficial to have Dalvin Tomlinson back in the middle. Rejoining the lineup for the Jets game, Tomlinson posted a season-high 10 tackles against the Detroit Lions and also registered a quarterback hit against Jared Goff.

D.J. Wonnum
Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Colts don’t have the privilege of employing a plethora of skill position players. Ryan is back under center, having previously been benched in favor of rookie Sam Ehlinger. The wideouts are nothing to write home about, and this offense is predicated mainly on the holes that Taylor can find to exploit. Minnesota should be focused on loading the box, and with Donatell suggesting a tightening of coverage in the secondary, there may be no better opponent to try and lock down than this one.

Indianapolis has looked to get Taylor something like 20 touches per game, and no one held him in check more than the Tennessee Titans did back in Week 4. On 20 carries, he generated just 42 yards while pulling in a single pass for one yard. That’s another game where film can help the Vikings to decide actions that worked to keep the Colts back in check.

Dec 4, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) hands off to running back Jonathan Taylor. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

Taylor is a capable receiver out of the backfield, but similar to last season, his numbers have taken a hit there as well. After averaging nine yards per reception in 2021, he’s at a career-low 4.8 this season. His longest catch has gone for just 19 yards, and Indianapolis simply hasn’t found ways to allow him an opportunity for space.

In this one, much of Minnesota’s separation should come through the lens of how they handle Taylor. He’s the guy to key on, and shutting him down has been a far easier task this season than last.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.