The Indianapolis Colts will again test their running back depth against the New England Patriots in Week 9.
Indianapolis will play its first game without running back Nyheim Hines on the roster since 2017. The Colts will also be without Jonathan Taylor, who head coach Frank Reich ruled out because of an ankle injury.
In Taylor’s place, Deon Jackson will start the second game of this season and of his career. During that other start, Jackson recorded 121 yards from scrimmage against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In addition to Taylor, the Colts ruled out quarterback Matt Ryan, cornerback Tony Brown, and linebacker Grant Stuard.
While Taylor’s inability to play in Week 9 hurts, the Colts received better news on the injury front from other players.
Defensive end Kwity Paye will return from his ankle injury and play for the first time since Week 5.
Offensive tackle Dennis Kelly was limited in practice on Friday, but he has not been ruled out. Kelly will be a game-time decision. Linebacker Shaquille Leonard will also play his second consecutive game but will be limited in snaps.
Taylor Ruled Out in Week 9
Unfortunately for Taylor, the 2022 season is turning into a lost year. He hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards in a game since Week 1. The offensive line has been a major issue, but Taylor has also been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 4.
Despite suffering the injury more than a month ago and missing two games because of the ailment, Taylor is still struggling to get healthy. A stint on injured reserve for the 2021 All-Pro running back is not out of the question although Reich said on November 4 that isn’t a plan for Taylor at the moment.
Jackson will receive another opportunity without Taylor active in Week 9. Jackson began the season as the team’s No. 3 running back, but the Colts traded backup running back Nyheim Hines to the Buffalo Bills on November 1.
Indianapolis received running back Zack Moss as part of the compensation in the Hines trade. Moss could see some snaps in Week 9, but with only about a week of practice, there’s likely a limited amount of what he can offer in his first game.
The Colts also have running backs Philip Lindsay, D’Vonte Price and Jordan Wilkins as options on their practice squad. Indianapolis added Wilkins, who played for the Colts from 2018-21, on the practice squad this week.
Paye Set to Return
The first-round pick from the 2021 NFL draft left in Week 5 on a cart because of an ankle injury. He hasn’t played since, and the Colts have felt his loss.
In the first five games with Paye playing, the Colts allowed 96.6 rushing yards per game. Since he left the starting lineup, though, Indianapolis has yielded 159 rushing yards per game.
Paye’s return is also important because the Colts lost defensive end Tyquan Lewis to a season-ending injury in Week 8. Lewis started the last three games in place of Paye.
The Colts are getting back the former first-rounder just in time. While the Patriots are only 23rd in rushing yards per carry, they are a team that loves to try and establish the run. New England is ranked eighth in rushing attempts this season and 13th in overall rushing yards.
Indianapolis will likely ask Paye for as many snaps as he can play in order to slow down the New England ground game at Foxboro on November 6.
Kelly Questionable, Leonard Set to be Limited
Although the Colts made definitive decisions for Taylor and Paye on November 4, the team is going to have the weekend to determine if Kelly can play.
Kelly has lined up for a majority of the team’s snaps at left tackle the last three weeks. He also started the last two games at the quarterback’s blindside spot.
Coming into the season, Kelly was reserved to a special teams role, but fellow tackles Matt Pryor and Bernard Raimann struggled mightily to protect the pocket at left tackle, giving Kelly an opportunity.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kelly has been average in both run and pass blocking, but he’s the best the Colts have right now at left tackle.
Leonard in the lineup for Week 9 means he will dress for consecutive games for the first time this season. While he didn’t start last week, he played 24 snaps.
In all likelihood, he will have a similar amount of snaps again in Week 9. Leonard’s 24 snaps on October 30 was 39% of the team’s defensive snaps in Week 8.