INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts had three players named first-team All-Pro and two more added to the second team Friday as announced by The Associated Press.
Running back Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, was a unanimous selection by the 50-person voting panel. It’s the first All-Pro honor for the second-year star.
Linebacker Darius Leonard earned his third first-team selection and fourth overall honor after recording 122 tackles and a league-high eight forced fumbles to go with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Long snapper Luke Rhodes, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth last month, is the Colts’ third first-team selection. He was named to the second team in 2020.
Left guard Quenton Nelson and special-teamer Ashton Dulin were named to the second team. It’s the fourth All-Pro honor for Nelson, who was named to the first team after each of his first three seasons, and the first for Dulin, who finished second in the NFL with 17 special teams tackles.
For Taylor, the honor is a capper on a special 2021 season. He set franchise records for single-season rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and tied the franchise single-season record for total touchdowns (20). He also led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,171), 100-yard rushing games (10) and runs resulting in a first down (107).
But he’s the first NFL rushing champion not to make the playoffs since Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011, recognition he’d much rather do without.
“You know you’re having a great season, that you’re playing well because that’s what you want to do,” Taylor said Monday in his season-ending video conference call. “That’s what everyone wants to do. I mean, if everyone’s playing well, that means everyone is executing, so we should be winning a bunch of football games. You know you’re having a great season, but it’s just a matter of fact of what’s something I could have done a little more, a little different?
“Little things to maybe make the O-line’s job a little bit easier, or I could have gotten back to protection to give (quarterback) Carson (Wentz) another second. You know you’re having a good season, but it’s ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ You’re always trying to figure out what are some ways to help the team even more? Of course, we know being at your best helps the team a lot. It helps it a tremendous amount because that’s all they ask of you is to be at your best and do what you need to do. Then you’re thinking, how could I help the team a little more?”
It’s hard to envision Taylor being much more impactful than he was during a season that put him in the MVP conversation. But it’s in his nature to constantly strive for more.
That’s one of the reasons general manager Chris Ballard feels fortunate to have landed the former Wisconsin star in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
While Indianapolis struggles to make sense of an unexplainable season-ending loss at Jacksonville that knocked it out of playoff contention, there are signs the roster is coming together in a powerful way.
The Colts led the league with seven Pro Bowl participants, and their three first-team All-Pros tied the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys for league-high honors.
Only Indianapolis and Baltimore are not participating in the postseason from that group.
Those selections represent building blocks for a franchise still trying to recover from the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck in 2019.
Taylor, who established himself as one of the NFL’s best players this year, is a good place to start.
“The guy’s special, man,” Ballard said during his year-end news conference Thursday. “He’s special. The guy is tremendous, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best from him. I think he’s going to continue to get better.”