Jonathan Taylor continues an impressive late-season surge out of the backfield. In his last three games, he has rushed for 331 yards on 55 carries, a six yeards-per-carry average. He has two rushing touchdowns. Taylor has caught nine passes on nine targets for 83 receiving yards and three more touchdowns.
On Sunday, Taylor became the most productive rookie running back in Indianapolis since Joseph Addai rushed for 171 yards in 2006. He finished the game with 150 rushing yards on 20 carries (7.5 yards-per-carry), with a long of 62 yards, with two touchdowns, and two receptions for another 15 yards. His offensive performance joined with a huge game from T.Y. Hilton to break the game open.
Michael Pittman Jr. continued to be an active part of the Colts offense but Hilton’s breakout over the last three weeks has impacted Pittman’s targets. He still finished the game with five targets but brought in only two of those for 42 receiving yards. The positive of Pittman Jr.’s game is that he remains a promising rookie who has shown breakout potential. The biggest downside for Pittman Jr. is the recurring false starts and occasional drops that have slowed him down.
Safety Julian Blackmon remains the feature story for defensive rookies. He has put together a great rookie campaign and remains in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. With that said, he’s been quiet in consecutive weeks and has shown up more recently for getting beat deep, failing to recognize open defenders, or taking bad angles as the last line of defense on deep passes. None of these issues have been prevalent for much of the season so it will be crucial for Blackmon to show an ability to rebound.
A late-season explosion of defensive production could keep him in consider for DROY but his current trajectory is likely leading him out of that conversation.
In Las Vegas, Blackmon recorded two total tackles and his biggest contribution to the game was whiffing badly on tight end Foster Moreau who caught a long touchdown pass from Derek Carr.
It is worth noting that Isaiah Rodgers did get a little playing time at cornerback, with Xavier Rhodes on the sideline late in the game. He did collect one tackle and didn’t look completely out of place in limited action. With his speed and range, it will be interesting to monitor his development over the off-season.
To this point, Colts fans are familiar with his blazing speed on kick returns. However, he was a strong corner at UMass and is cousins with Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he will take a step forward defensively over the off-season and may be joined by Marvell Tell III who set out this season due to COVID-19.
The big story on special teams this week is the continued success for place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. The early training camp jitters and inconsistency appear to be well behind him. He has hit 90% of his field goal attempts this season and has missed only one since Week 4. Blankenship has stepped in for injured punter Rigoberto Sanchez on kickoffs and hit all eight of those attempts into the end zone with seven touchbacks on Sunday.
Most importantly, Blankenship took over as the highest-scoring Colts rookie in franchise history Sunday with 116 points scored — this is with three games remaining. It’s fair to say that Blankenship has exceeded expectations and helped to calm a fan base that spent much of the last season unsure about how any kick would turn out. As he builds confidence, the Colts may have found their next great kicker — and one who could very well find himself in a Pro Bowl this season.