On second-and-10 with 3:50 remaining before halftime Sunday at Gillette Stadium, J.J. Taylor handled his first NFL carry.
It saw the undrafted New England Patriots rookie disappear into the teeth of the Miami Dolphins out of I-formation. But Taylor, listed at 5-foot-6 and 185 pounds, would reappear four yards later to hand the ball to the referee.
It’d be his shortest run of the afternoon.
“Yeah, I thought J.J. ran competitively,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a video conference call with reporters. “He’s a tough kid that’s got good run skills, which we saw at Arizona and to some extent in training camp, as well. I thought he ran hard.”
Taylor finished New England’s 21-11 win over Miami with four carries for 28 yards, including a long of 11. He added one catch on a tipped pass from quarterback Cam Newton that gained four yards.
A total of nine offensive snaps were played by Taylor while fellow backs Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White each played 19. In the limited sample, the Wildcats product earned New England’s highest Pro Football Focus grade on the depth chart.
“He’s out there every day,” added Belichick. “He works hard. He’s one of the hardest-working rookies, one of the hardest-working kids on the team, and I think that’s shown up in the improvement and the performance that he’s been able to have through the course of training camp and now into the start of the regular season.”
The Patriots promoted Taylor to the active roster from the practice squad to begin the opening week. The move coincided with 2019 third-round rusher Damien Harris going on injured reserve.
And it continued the UDFA streak.
Taylor arrived in New England having tallied 3,750 yards from scrimmage for 20 touchdowns while at Arizona. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry, 7.9 yards per catch and found the end zone on an 84-yard kick return.
His No. 42 jersey would be spotted deep for kickoffs that became touchbacks on Sunday.
“There’s a long way to go,” Belichick said. “I think we’ll just have to see how he develops and whether he can continue to improve and when he gets his opportunities to play, how productive he can be with those. But he’s earned what he’s gotten to this point, so we’ll see what happens.”