With Marlon Mack down, Colts’ focus turns to Jonathan Taylor

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JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 13: Jonathan Taylor #28 of the Indianapolis Colts makes a 35-yard reception for a first down in the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 13, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – That much-hyped “one-one’’ punch has lost 50% of its punch.

Prepare yourself for a heavier workload, Jonathan Taylor.

An Indianapolis Colts running game that featured veteran Marlon Mack suddenly shifts its focus to the rookie. Mack suffered an injury to his right Achilles in the second quarter of Sunday’s 27-20 loss at Jacksonville. A magnetic resonance imaging test is scheduled Monday, but the fear is Mack almost certainly is done for the season.

Taylor hadn’t had a chance to check on Mack before addressing the media after the game, but has every intention of listening to any advice he will most certainly offer.

“I’ve got to check with him and see how he’s feeling, where his mind’s at,’’ Taylor said. “I’m sure he’s going to have some words for me. I think the biggest thing for me is take all the information, all the words from him.

“I got to make sure I’m responding and soaking it all in.’’

Again, the Colts envisioned Mack, the veteran, and Taylor, the much-hyped second-round pick, forming a one-one punch with a Colts’ running game that ranked 7th in the league a year ago. Mack rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards last season and was in the final year of his rookie contract.

That fourth season ended in the second quarter when he went down after catching a 3-yard pass from Philip Rivers. Mack grabbed his lower right leg and had to be helped from the field. He was taken to the locker room on a cart.

“He does have an Achilles injury,’’ Frank Reich confirmed. “He’s going to get a scan (Monday). That’s all we know right now.’’

Before going down, Mack was a force. He rushed four times for 26 yards and caught three passes for 30 yards.

Without him, the Colts leaned on Nyheim Hines and Taylor. Hines led the Colts with 28 yards on seven carries and added 45 yards on eight receptions. Taylor had 22 yards on nine carries and 67 yards on six receptions.

Going forward, Taylor might get the starting nod while Hines continues in his role as the versatile Colt. Mack’s injury undoubtedly opens the door for Jordan Wilkins as the third option.

“We have a lot of confidence in Nyheim, so just get him rolling a little bit,’’ Reich said. “He was doing a nice job.

“Then we got a chance to get Jonathan in there a little bit and get his feet wet. From what I can tell – obviously I will have to watch the tape – but he did a good job.’’

Being the feature back is nothing new to Taylor. In three years at Wisconsin, he started 40 of 41 games while piling up 6,174 yards and 50 TDs.

More to the point, Taylor emphasized Reich has prepared him for this moment.

“This started before training camp, making sure that I was up to speed as much as possible,’’ he said. “Not being able to have OTAs and not being able to have rookie minicamp, we had to try to do as many meetings as we could and also add on top of that throughout training camp to try to get me up to speed with those vets.

“I don’t know the full status on Marlon, but I know he’s going to be in not only my ear but the rest of the backs’ ear until he gets back . . . in order to make sure we can uphold his part and make sure that the running back group is not a drop-off.’’

About that running game

Perhaps it was a decision to lean heavier on the Rivers-led passing game or a byproduct of losing Mack in the second quarter, but the Colts never really got their vaunted ground game going.

That phase of the offense ranked 7th in the league a year ago, averaging 133.1 yards and 29 attempts per game. Sunday’s yield: 88 yards on 22 attempts.

“We never got quick into the rhythm for maybe a variety of reasons,’’ Reich said. “We were having some success early in the pass game. We got a lot of chunks in the pass game.

“I felt like, almost, we were moving the ball at will. It felt like we couldn’t be stopped on offense. I really felt that way. The ball was getting spread around so we didn’t dial up a couple of runs like we sometimes do, but that will change game-to-game.’’

This and that

Second-year wideout Parris Campbell finished with 71 yards on six receptions. Both are career bests. . . . Tight end Jack Doyle had three catches for 49 yards, including a career-long 28-yarder. . . . The defense came up with four sacks: Denico Autry (2), Justin Houston and Khari Willis (1 each).

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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