Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is special.

How special? Well, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo compared him to arguably the most versatile running back of the last decade.

“I see a little bit of or a lot of when Le’Veon Bell was in Pittsburgh,” Spagnuolo told the media on September 22. “And they used to hand him the ball and he used to bounce and find it, you know, they’d like to see him open up because he had a good offensive line, and then boom, he’s gone.

“He’s going to be the No. 1 focus, obviously.”

Bell played during his prime for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2013-17. While Bell never led the NFL in rushing, he made first-team All Pro in 2014 and 2017 and eclipsed 1,800 yards from scrimmage in a season 3 times.

But Bell was also a controversial player. He was arrested on DUI and marijuana possession charges before his second season and served a 2-game suspension in 2015. The following season, he was suspended 3 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Unable to agree to a contract extension after his second All-Pro season, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight year. Bell then sat out the entire 2018 season because of his displeasure with his contract situation.


Taylor’s Similarities to Bell on the Field

It’s important to note that Spagnuolo only compared Taylor to Bell on the field. During his press conference, the Chiefs defensive coordinator identified the things that impressed him the most about the Indianapolis Colts running back.

“By the time he gets to the second level linebackers, he’s at like 22 miles per hour,” Spagnuolo said referring Next Gen Stats. “That stick outs. If you let him get to the second level, he’s a tough tackle for the guys on the back end.

“He’s got power, he’s got speed, and I think the scheme that Frank has been using with him really fits him.”

In 2017, Bell led the NFL in carries and touches. Last season, Taylor led the league in carries and was second in touches to, ironically, current Steelers running back Najee Harris.

Bell accumulated 7,996 yards from scrimmage in just 62 games for Pittsburgh. At the conclusion of the 2017 season, his nearly 129 yards from scrimmage per game was ranked first in NFL history.

During his All-Pro seasons, Bell posted more than 80 catches. Taylor isn’t at that level of production as a pass catcher, but he has 81 receptions and 682 receiving yards in 34 career games. He posted 360 receiving yards to add to his 1,811 rushing yards to lead the NFL with 2,171 yards from scrimmage in 2021.

Taylor has averaged 114 yards from scrimmage in his career. That’s currently ranked fourth all time behind only Jim Brown, Billy Sims and Barry Sanders (among running backs to play at least 10 games played).

Bell finished with 102.5 yards from scrimmage per game, which is the 19th-highest average in league history.


Taylor Versus the Chiefs Run Defense

The last time the Colts faced the Chiefs, Taylor was still at the University of Wisconsin. But Reich’s scheme has had success on the ground against Kansas City’s defense in the past.

In the last Colts-Chiefs matchup in October 2019, the Colts ran for 180 yards on 45 carries. Running back Marlon Mack had 132 rushing yards while quarterback Jacoby Brissett scored a rushing touchdown in a 19-13 win for Indianapolis.

During a playoff game the prior season, the Colts averaged 6.2 yards per carry against the Chiefs defense. But Indianapolis fell behind and only had 14 rushing attempts in a 31-13 loss.

Obviously, the rosters and coaching staffs for both teams have changed a lot over the last few years. Spagnuolo was Kansas City’s defensive coordinator in 2018 but not during the playoffs the year prior.

Furthermore, Chiefs 3-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones suffered an injury in the October 2019 matchup, which helped the Colts ground game. Jones is healthy and off to a good start this season.

Even so, Reich’s formula will probably largely be the same as the 2019 matchup. Establishing Taylor and dominating on the ground against Jones and the Chiefs is one of the biggest keys for Indianapolis to pull off an upset victory against Kansas City in Week 3.

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