WESTFIELD – Matt Ryan first noticed Jonathan Taylor’s natural instincts on Indianapolis Colts game film.

One play proved Taylor is even more impressive in person. At Indianapolis’ first training camp practice last week, Ryan got a glimpse into this season’s possibilities when his new running back caught a screen pass, quickly turned up the field and left defenders in his wake.

Even Ryan, who has seemingly seen everything over a 14-year career, did a double take.

“He made a cut that you just don’t see and his explosion out of the cut, to me, was an eye-opener,” Ryan said. “You can watch as much tape as you want, but it’s different to see it in person. You think he’s really good, then you show up and you think he’s better than you thought.”

Turning heads, drawing raves and surprising teammates has become an annual tradition for Taylor ever since he won the starting job at Wisconsin in 2017.

The true freshman started 13 of 14 games and finished with 1,977 yards that year before topping the 2,000-yard mark each of the next two seasons. He’s one of three major college players with multiple 2,000-yard seasons and could become the first to do it three times in their combined college and pro careers.

Still, Taylor slid into the second round of the 2020 draft as critics warned about his lack of vision, penchant for fumbling and the toll 926 college carries could take on his body.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard, also a Badgers alum, didn’t buy it.

He saw Taylor as a smart, workhorse back, capable of making home run plays and becoming a strong voice in the locker room. It didn’t take Taylor long to make Ballard look like a genius.

Taylor replaced the injured Marlon Mack in Indy’s 2020 season opener and finished the season by rushing for a single-game franchise-record 253 yards as he went over 1,000 yards.

Last season, with defenses loading up against Taylor, he rushed for a league-high 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 360 yards and two scores through the air, including the 76-yard screen pass he turned into a TD at Baltimore.

The question now is what will Taylor do for an encore?

He’ll continue battling two-time rushing champ Derrick Henry to claim the title of best back in the league and the AFC South. And Indianapolis believes Ryan’s presence could back defenses off the line of scrimmage.

“That’s the thought, but you never really know what teams are going to do,” Taylor said this spring. “So you need to prepare in the offseason to face eight, nine, in your case, 16-man boxes.”

During previous offseasons, he focused on refining his pass-catching and pass protection skills. This year, he prepared for a heavier workload than the 372 touches he had last season.

“You always prepare, I don’t want to say for the worst, but the most you can possibly do,” Taylor said. “My parents always say better to have and not need rather than to need and not have. So if you come into this building at camp time, fully ready to go for any situation, you’ll be prepared for your workload to increase.”

Taylor, 23, would like to expand the schedule to include a championship run. He has yet to win an NFL playoff game.

It’s the one glaring omission on Taylor’s resume.

“My brother was up here at practice Saturday and he was like, ‘Man, it was amazing to watch that guy go through the little ropes they run through at the beginning,’ ” Ryan said. “He’s like, ‘It’s just different, you watch him and the movement is different.

“Those other guys are doing great behind him but he (Taylor) is another level.’ He’s special.”