Plenty of attention will be paid to rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson heading into the 2023 season. However, much of the Colts’ success will ride on the health of running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard.
Owner Jim Irsay provided an update on each of the latter two players during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show (video link). Taylor’s recovery from offseason ankle surgery has been a key talking point, given his importance to the team’s offense. He has remained optimistic about his ability to return to full health in time for the start of the regular season, if not earlier.
Irsay stated that Taylor is indeed “healed up,” a development which should do wonders for the Colts’ ground game. A healthy 2023 campaign from the former rushing champion would also have signficant financial consequences, of course. Taylor has one year remaining on his rookie contract, and negotiations for an extension began last month. Arriving at agreeable contract terms could be difficult for player and team, considering the time Taylor missed last year and the stagnant nature of the RB market around the league.
As for Leonard, the situation is notably different. The three-time All-Pro was limited to just three games in 2022, as he dealt with a recurring back ailment. He underwent a second surgery aimed at addressing it, and later made positive remarks with respect to its effectiveness compared to the first. Still, there is no timetable for his return to the field, and a patient approach would come as no surprise considering Indianapolis’ financial commitment to him. Four years remain on Leonard’s $98.25MM extension signed in 2021.
“He’s working hard,” Irsay said when asked about the status of Leonard’s recovery process. “We’ll see. He has a chance, he’s working really hard. He’s getting a little better each day.”
A season at full strength for both Taylor and Leonard would boost the Colts’ chances of rebounding from a disastrous 2022 campaign, though expectations may be tempered during Richardson’s acclimation to the NFL. At the onset of training camp later this month, the health situation the Colts find themselves in will become clearer, but general optimism on the injury front is certainly noteworthy.