As we make ready for week 4 of the NFL season, I am highlighting another player on the team that Patriots fans should know about.
This week, I’m going to discuss running back J.J. Taylor.
Quick Facts: J.J. Taylor
Height/Weight: 5’6”, 185 lbs
College: University of Arizona
Drafted: Undrafted in 2020
Contract status: Signed a 1 year, $610,000 contract with the Patriots, including a $7,500 signing bonus.
Taylor played four games as a true freshman before suffering an injury that led him to a redshirt season.
He won the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year the following year and broke out in 2018, rushing for more than 1,400 yards. He also had more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the 2019 season.
Taylor’s best game at the college level was in 2018 when he rushed for a career-high 284 yards in a Week 4 matchup against Oregon State. Taylor scampered for a 40-yard touchdown on Arizona’s opening drive and then topped the day off with a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
A second great performance, also during the 2018 season, came against Justin Herbert and his Oregon Ducks in a Week 9 matchup at Arizona Stadium. Taylor led the Wildcats to a 44-15 blowout victory thanks to his 30 carries for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Over Taylor’s 40 games, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 587 touches and had 3,750 yards from scrimmage.
Check out his college stats, via Sports Reference.
Becoming a Patriot
In March of 2020, Taylor signed a contract with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
The Patriots elevated Taylor to the 53-man roster from the 16-man practice squad after running back Damien Harris was placed on injured reserve.
On a conference call Wednesday, September 9th, Belichick spoke highly of Taylor:
“Well, J.J. was a good college player. We signed him after the draft and he’s been competitive. He had some opportunities early in camp when Sony [Michel] was out and then, you know, had some opportunities later in camp here when Damien [Harris] missed a few days. So, I think he’s done a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Taylor wasted very little time to take advantage of his opportunity. Entering week 4, Taylor has 16 carries, for 70 yards, and he has also returned three kickoffs for 69 yards and a punt for 11 yards. In fact, during the first three games of the 2020 season, he has been on the field for 25 offensive snaps.
In his NFL debut, week 1 vs the Dolphins, he had four rushes for 28 yards and one catch for four yards.
The offensive game plan for week 2 did not allow Taylor to be as involved because Cam Newton had 44 pass attempts, and the Patriots only ran the ball 25 times. He was, however, a major factor on special teams with those three kickoff returns I mentioned earlier.
Taylor’s week 3 performance has everyone buzzing because of his promising performance. Granted Sony Michel stole the show with his big game, carrying the rock 9 times for 117 yards, but it was Taylor, however, that added that much-needed spark to a struggling Patriots offense. Taylor had 11 carries for 43 yards against the Raiders. In addition, he had one 11 yard punt return.
Entering their Week 4 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots have Rex Burkhead and James White at running back along with Taylor. If activated, Damien Harris could be back after missing the first three games of the regular season on injured reserve because of a hand issue, and White is back after the tragic passing of his father. Sony Michel has been ruled out.
Do you have a player recommendation for next week’s spotlight? Let me know on Twitter @Kevin_Tame.
–Kevin Tame, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Tame