By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There’s something about an undersized player that gets sports fans excited. That’s especially true in Boston sports. From Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts, to Brad Marchand and Torey Krug, to Isaiah Thomas, to Dion Lewis, a number of athletes with some vertical limitations have been well-loved by local sports fans.
Second-year running back J.J. Taylor has a chance to join the party, and one play he made on Sunday evening in New Jersey will certainly help him toward that goal.
It came in the second quarter of the Patriots’ preseason finale, against the Giants. Taylor lined up in the shotgun, on the left side of rookie quarterback Mac Jones. On a second-and-20 at the New England 10-yard line, Taylor made sure to chip whichever blue jersey was on the edge of the line before vacating the backfield. He connected on that one.
Taylor threw a shoulder into Leonard Williams, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound defensive lineman. While Taylor obviously had the benefit of surprise when delivering a shot on Williams, it was nevertheless an impressive show of strength, as Taylor stopped Williams in his tracks and sent him falling to the turf.
Taylor finished the moment by running his route, making a catch on a checkdown pass from Jones, and turning in a gain of eight yards.
Check it out:
J.J. Taylor (5-6, 185) just laid out Leonard Williams (6-5, 291) pic.twitter.com/OaR0ekuSZC
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 29, 2021
A hit like that is generally considered “lowering the boom.” But considering where it’s coming from, this was more of a delivery than a lowering.
Taylor also broke a 21-yard run before halftime, and an 18-yard run after halftime, the latter of which helped set up the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game.
Taylor, at 5-foot-6, is the shortest player on the Patriots’ roster. He signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona last year, and he played in six games, rushing for 110 yards on 23 carries (4.8 yards per carry), catching one pass for four yards, returning four kicks for 87 yards, and returning one punt for 11 yards.
With Sony Michel getting traded last week, it seemingly opened the door for Taylor to make the final 53-man roster this season. Plays like this one are sure to pop on film when the coaching staff begins to seriously consider those roster decisions in the coming 48 hours.