JACKSONVILLE – He's a tough runner and a tough task.
He's Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. He may be the NFL's best player at his position, a player who runs as hard as he does fast, and make no mistake:
How the Jaguars defend him is a big deal this week.
"It's a big test; that's a good group coming in here," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said Thursday as the Jaguars (0-1) prepared to play the Colts (0-0-1) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m. "It's a big challenge coming in here.
"We've got to put our hardhats on and be ready to go."
There's a reason Taylor has been a major topic this week, and that's that few NFL teams are so defined by a non-quarterback as the Colts are by the NFL's 2021 rushing leader.
"He's fast, he's strong, he's a powerful runner," Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris said. "He's a really strong runner. I respect the hell out of him as a running back."
Discussing Taylor this week, Robertson-Harris and other Jaguars defenders focused on Taylor's power and tackle-breaking ability. Yes, Taylor is fast enough to score from anywhere on the field, but he also runs hard. Really hard.
"You have to bring your body weight; you can't arm tackle him," Robertson-Harris said.
Taylor, a third-year veteran, rushed for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries in the Colts' 20-20 Week 1 tie with the Houston Texans.
"There are so many things he does well," Caldwell said. "He's patient, then he has explosion to get through the gap. He runs with power and they feed it to him. That helps."
Despite trailing by 17 points entering the fourth quarter, the Colts continued to run Taylor – and he carried nine times for 70 yards as Indianapolis rallied to tie.
"They can be down 28-0 and they're going to stick to their game plan," Robertson-Harris said. "It's their bread and butter. They're going to keep going to it. We have to be able to stop it and make them one-dimensional."
Caldwell on Thursday said the Jaguars didn't tackle well in a Week 1 loss at Washington and said that must be a focus Sunday.
"This guy coming in, we all are accountable for that," he said. "We all have to be there ready to get him down. That has been stressed – that we have to gang tackle him and get multiple guys involved."
Taylor in four career games against the Jaguars has rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns on 75 carries. He has twice rushed for more than 100 yards against the Jaguars – including a 253-yard, two-touchdown game in the 2020 regular-season finale.
Taylor rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries in the Jaguars' 26-11 victory over the Colts in the 2021 regular-season finale.
"He's explosive, powerful and fast," Jaguars defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi said. "I'm going to give credit where credit is due. He's a really good player and he's done well in this league so far. We just have to put our hats together and make sure we stay diligent with our work and we'll be all right.
"It's as simple as everyone being where they need to be when they need to be there. It's that simple."
- The Jaguars, after producing a league-low nine takeaways last season, registered three in Week 1. Their takeaway-giveaway margin of plus-2 is tied for fourth best in the NFL. "We always talk about, 'They come in bunches,''' Caldwell said. "We've been stressing to the guys to focus on them. We were focused on it and hopefully that will continue." Rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker and cornerback Tyson Campbell intercepted passes Sunday, with linebacker Foye Oluokon recovering a fumble.
- Caldwell on quarterback Matt Ryan, who joined the Colts this past offseason after 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons: "You really don't fool him on anything. He's a veteran who has seen a bunch. The arm talent is still there. He can throw the ball to any part of the field. He's a guy who has been around and played at a high level and continues to play at a high level."
3 sleeps until kickoff. 🏈 The Jaguars prepare for their 2022 Season home opener against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field.