The Bucs liked running back Antonio Gibson coming out of Memphis in the 2020 NFL Draft and seriously considered drafting him in the second round last year before selecting free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. instead. Tampa Bay was hoping Gibson would last until their third round selection, but he was drafted by Washington 10 picks ahead.
The Bucs were in the market for a running back in the draft and wound up choosing Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round instead.
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor – Photo by: Getty Images
“I loved him,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “I thought he was fantastic. Big, active, speed – he has great hands, and he could do it all. It was only a matter of time playing behind that offensive line that he was going to be the force that he is. That offensive line is very, very special and he’s a special back. He’ll be a hell of a challenge for our run defense.”
On Sunday, the Bucs will face Taylor and the 6-5 Colts in Indianapolis. The Colts have won five of their last six games with Taylor leading the way. In last week’s 41-15 win at Buffalo, Taylor rushed for a season-high 185 yards and four touchdowns. He added 19 receiving yards and another touchdown through the air on three catches.
“Their offensive line is healthy,” Arians said. “This may be the best offensive line we’ve seen since Dallas, and maybe better. Jonathan Taylor – he’s just a tremendous back. He can do it all. Not only is he big and fast, he can catch, he can block and he can do everything.”
In the 2020 draft, the Bucs were looking for a running back that could run and catch the ball. They were looking for a back that Leonard Fournette, who was signed in September, wound up becoming during the team’s Super Bowl run.
But Taylor, who rushed for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns at Wisconsin – where he averaged 2,000 yards per season – is special. And it’s no surprise that he’s emerged as the NFL’s leading rusher in just his second season.
After rushing for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry in 15 games as a rookie, the 5-foot-10, 226-pound back leads the league with 1,122 yards and 13 TDs with a robust 5.8 yards per carry average.
Taylor’s unique blend of speed and power also show up in the passing game where he caught 36 passes for 299 yards (8.3 avg.) and a TD in 2020. This year, he’s already caught 32 passes for 322 yards (10.1 avg.) and 2 scores.
Colts RB Jonathan Taylor – Photo by: USA Today
“He’s great in the screen game, but he can go out and run routes,” Arians said. “He had a lot of David Johnson in him when we worked him out. He could be a wide receiver if he wanted to be – he’s got the size and speed. [He’s a] tremendous athlete. He’s dangerous anywhere in space.”
Once again, Tampa Bay boasts the league’s top rushing defense, surrendering an average of just 78.4 yards per game. Indianapolis is fourth in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 147.9 yards per game. Something’s got to give on Sunday.
If the Bucs can hold Taylor under 100 yards, Tampa Bay can improve to 8-3 on the year. But every time Taylor has rushed for 100 yards this season the Colts have prevailed.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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