INDIANAPOLIS – Edgerrin James is always watching from afar, and appreciating.
After one of Jonathan Taylor’s recent highlight-filled afternoons, the most prolific running back in Indianapolis Colts’ history tapped out a text to the franchise’s latest feature back.
“You have to have that,’’ James said Monday afternoon. “When you have a chance to do something well in this league, something that’s memorable, don’t lift your foot off the gas.
“I hope he continues to put up these big numbers and has one of the greatest seasons of all time.’’
Specifically, that’s in reference to Taylor possibly becoming just the ninth player in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing barrier. With all due respect to James and his optimistic view, that seems a bridge too far.
Taylor leads the NFL in rushing with 1,122 yards and is in position to join James, Eric Dickerson and Alan Ameche as the only Colts to win the rushing title. But as dominant as he’s been this season, he’s averaging 102 yards per game.
To hit James’ 2K Vision target, Taylor would need to average 146 yards over the final six games.
“He’s in position,’’ James said, disregarding the mathematics working against Taylor. “Don’t give up that opportunity. If you’re right there, why not?’’
To give the challenge perspective, consider Taylor has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his last eight games and been the NFL’s most explosive back over the past six. During that six-game stretch, he’s had games of 145, 172 and 185 yards. The latter figure came during Sunday’s 41-15 blowout of the Buffalo Bills.
But that’s an average of 132.5 yards per game. If Taylor’s next six are as vibrant as the last six, he finishes at 1,917.
James’ overriding point wasn’t that Taylor and the Colts should be driven by the quest for 2,000, as unlikely as it is.
It’s that Taylor should seize the moment, maximize the opportunity and enjoy the journey.
“Even if you don’t get 2K and you get 18 hundred, it doesn’t matter,’’ James said. “You still did something great. Maybe you go down in history.
“Seize the moment. If you have a chance to do something great, go ahead and give the people what they want to see. They want to see greatness. Everybody wants to see greatness.’’
Through 11 games, Taylor leads the NFL in rushing, 100-yard games (six), 20-plus yard rushes (10), total yards from scrimmage (1,444), touchdowns (15), rushing first downs (68) and total first downs (78). His five TDs against the Bills – four rushing, one receiving – were a team record and one shy of equaling the league record.
He’s on pace for 1,734 rushing yards, which would eclipse James’ single-season club record (1,709 in 2000), and 2,232 yards from scrimmage, which would fall shy of James’ team mark (2,303 in 2000).
Tight end Jack Doyle smiles in disbelief whenever offensive coordinator Marcus Brady takes time during a Monday meeting to chronicle Taylor’s latest exploits.
“He starts reading off stats of what Jonathan’s doing and you’re like, ‘Really? That’s what he’s doing? He’s with LaDainian Tomlinson? He’s setting franchise records when we’ve had Edgerrin James here and Marshall Faulk?’’’ Doyle said Monday.
“It’s crazy, then you see the way Jonathan carries himself. Then you’re like, ‘Man, this guy is incredible. He’s awesome.’ He’s the ultimate teammate. He’s the ultimate team player.’’
Again, James has paid attention. He met Taylor briefly this season during Pro Football Hall of Fame-related activities but has kept in touch via texts and direct messages.
“When he first got drafted I sent him a message,’’ James said. “I’m always going to send a message when it’s necessary. I’m always pulling for the young running backs and always pulling for the organization.
“I want these guys to know, ‘Hey, you have someone like myself behind you. I’m watching you.’ I like to see somebody young come in and do what they’re supposed to be doing. He seems like a very good kid.
“The Colts got a good one.’’
James has urged Taylor to take the proper approach: keep your body in shape to deal with the weekly punishment, study, put in the work at practice and be prepared to get every defense’s best shot.
“The way the NFL works, when you start doing well they really hone in on you,’’ he said. “You have to understand they’re going to be gunning for you. They’re going to come for you.
“But that’s not to say they’re going to stop you.’’
Also, with increased success comes increased attention.
“It could become a distraction,’’ he said. “There’s more interviews, more this, more that.
“Just stay focused. Enjoy the moment because every season is different. You have to lock in and stay focused. Take care of your body.’’
That hasn’t been an issue with Taylor. He frequently refers to his approach to practice and games, his “pre-hab’’routine.
James’ seize-the-moment advice to Taylor is rooted in the uncertain nature of the NFL.
“Every season is different,’’ he said. “You just never know.’’
The Colts selected James with the 4th overall pick in the 1999 draft. He entered the NFL a rare blend of power and finesse, and a touch of naivety.
“I thought I was going to lead the league in rushing every year,’’ he said.
That was the case in 1999, and 2000.
“It was easy,’’ James said. “I thought, ‘This is all I’ve got to do?’ I’m telling you, man, I thought I was going to lead the league in rushing every year because that was easy to me. I was like, ‘This is a joke. I thought the NFL was supposed to be hard.’
“Every year was a progression. My third year I was ready to roll.’’
Then, in week 6 of 2001 at Kansas City and well on his way to a third straight rushing title, James tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“That changed everything,’’ he said. “The sport challenges you.’’
So, seize the moment.
“When you’re riding the wave,’’ James said, “ride it.’’
Even though that might mean Taylor continues to erase some of James’ club records? He topped James’ single-game mark of 219 yards in week 17 of his rookie year: 253 yards against Jacksonville.
James laughed. Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Class of 2020 – don’t worry about such things.
“Records are meant to be broken,’’ he said. “I’m in the Hall, man. I’m stamped. I’m good.
“Whatever happens from here on out, have at it. I’m immortal. I’m in the Hall. Nobody can take that away.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.