Jay’s pilot episode for his annual Stat Projections series features rookie QB Anthony Richardson but also includes QB Gardner Minshew.
Another year, another series of Colts Projections articles.
However this year my task is a bit harder as for the first time I:
- Have no NFL data on the Colts new QB
- Have no HC tendency data on Colts HC (just 1.5 years as playcalling OC for Eagles Offense)
In prior years I had multiple years of NFL data for the Colts new QB. However, for 2023 the Colts decided to end the carousel of vet QB stopgaps and drafted a QB early in Round 1. While this signals the most likely multi-year investment in 1 QB the Colts have made in years, it also means that the rookie has no NFL data to draw from. Heck if I wanted to draw on College Football data (which is more dubious to be translatable to the NFL level), there is only a 13-game sample size to draw from.
And the Colts new Head Coach hire further throws a wrench in the projections model. Previously, I could rely upon Reich’s established tendencies as the primary play-caller in San Diego, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. While Shane Steichen has made those same stops in his coaching journey as an OC before joining Indy as the HC, he only had 1.5 years as the primary play-caller for the Eagles in a similar offense to what the Colts can expect to run with their rookie passer.
The data limitations this year make this the most “projection-y-est” projection yet in my time writing for The Blue Stable.
Nevertheless, I persisted. What should Colts fans expect from their QBs in 2023?
|Colts 2023 Passing Projections|
|Anthony Richardson||Gardner Minshew||TOTAL|
|Average Depth of Target||8.4||7.6||8.3|
|Colts 2023 QB Rushing Projections|
|Anthony Richardson||Gardner Minshew||TOTAL|
|Yards Per Carry||6.4||1.5||6.1|
Where Would This Offense Rank?
Based on 2022 Passing Statistics, the Colts O would rank:
- 498 Attempts = 28th
- 295 Completions = 28th
- 59.3% = 31st
- 3,317 Passing Yards = 26th
- 6.7 Yards Per Attempt = 27th
- 8.3 yards Average Depth of Target = 9th
- 19 TDs = T19th
- 3.8% TD% = 21st
- 16 INTs = T27th
- 3.2% INT% = 31st
- 78.53 Passer Rating = 32nd
Based on 2022 Rushing statistics, the Colts QBs would finish:
- 141 Carries = 3rd
- 914 Yards = 2nd
- 6.1 Yards Per Carry = 4th
- 9 TDs = 2nd
- 63 1st Downs = 3rd
- 3 Fumbles = 2nd
The Rookie Richardson Rollercoaster
The Colts hopped off the QB carousel and mosied over to the rookie season Richardson Rollercoaster. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.
Anthony Richardson is a Top 3 Rushing QB in the NFL. Tied 5th most Rushing Yards for a QB in a season since 2000 & most for a rookie QB ever. 3rd most Rushing TDs for a rookie ever. The pairing of Richardson in Shane Stiechen’s offense is a match made in heaven on the ground. Whether it’s on designed keepers, RPOs, or scrambles, NFL defenses will be carved up by Richardson’s legs.
Colts have hit the 2,500 yard mark 2x in team history:
Pairing the most athletic QB ever & the efficient top RB from 2021 (5.5ypc then, 5.1ypc over career) in the Eagles O system under Steichen could lead to one of the best rushing years in Colts history
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) May 19, 2023
Richardson’s Cannon Unleashes the Deep Ball. The Colts deep passing has struggled with consistency at times over the last 3 years. Whether it is due to diminished arm strength to end-of-career vets or inconsistent deep ball placement, Rivers, Wentz, and Ryan failed to properly utilize a consistent deep threat.
Two elements of the Colts’ passing attack that can add to Anthony Richardson’s monster ceiling
Shane Steichen’s love of deep passing & play action
Last year Jalen Hurts:
7th in deep attempts
4th in PA pass attempts
Don’t Worry… Anthony Richardson is good at both
Last year… pic.twitter.com/mY4OQclKsw
— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) May 16, 2023
After Matt Ryan (only 4.3% of his throws were 20+ yards), Nick Foles (20% completion % on throws 20+ yards), and Sam Ehlinger (15.4% completion % on throws 20+ yards) at QB in 2022, the deep passing game needs a spark. Enter Richardson with both the willingness (19.9% of throws were 20+ yards at Florida), and the deep ball placement (40% completion % on 20+ yard throws) to challenge defenses vertically.
Richardson Stands Tall in the Pocket. Richardson uses not just his athleticism but his uncanny pocket presence to avoid sacks. Unlike more standstill pocket QBs of yesteryear, his combination of pocket presence and athleticism forces Defenses to play him differently.
Teams have to be careful in their blitzes, disciplined in their rush lanes, and have a defender in the spy or players in coverage keeping their eyes also on Richardson. It is a tough assignment with a +1 rusher in the backfield of this caliber. With Defenses limited in how they can attack Richardson by respecting his legs, it can open up opportunities for his weapon out wide.
Richardson’s terrific pocket presence also helps cut down on Fumbles. In 2022 the Colts QBs Fumbled 17 times, recovering only 3 of those. Richardson has fumbled only twice in college and has the lowest pressure to sack % among QB prospects in the last 6 years. Richardson’s ability to avoid disaster in the backfield will be a big boost to the Colts O going forward.
Richardson’s Accuracy Improves…Slowly. Much has been said about Anthony Richardson’s career 53.8% completion percentage in college. Part of it was due to the poor surrounding talent (one of the worst drop rates in 2022). Part of it was due to the scheme (Florida ran a deep vertical route heavy passing attack with few dump-off options). Part of it was due to Richardson’s inconsistent ball placement due to poor footwork. Colts can give Richardson a better scheme and more talented weapons, but the rookie needs to develop too. He shows some strides, but is still not fully up to starting NFL QB standard accuracy in year 1.
Rookie QB Gets Picked On. Richardson’s inexperience in college can get him in trouble at times. He needs to continue to hone his field vision and football IQ. There were flashes at Florida of smart play, but consistency is needed.
In the NFL the margin of error on passing windows is slimmer and the defenders are better at capitalizing on a young QBs mistake. His 14 INTs would have ranked T3rd in the NFL in 2022 and his 3.2% INT% would rank 5th among QBs with 100 attempts. If he can avoid making costly mistakes and take calculated risks, he can become a much better QB, but there might be a learning curve in the NFL.
2 Missed Games. Richardson starts 15/17 games in this projection. This is projecting either he will miss the first 2 games due to Minshew starting in his place at the beginning of the season or he misses two games due to injury.
Read Anthony Richardson’s injury history in Dane Brugler’s The Beast draft guide:
“Plays through pain but missed time b/c of injuries, including strained hamstring (Sep 2021), concussion (Oct 2021) and nagging pain in right knee, which required arthroscopic surgery (Dec 2021).”
— Edgar Salmingo, Jr. ✌️ (@PanthersAnalyst) April 10, 2023
As a mobile QB Richardson will be at a higher risk of injury due to increased hits. Should he get dinged up during the 2023 season, expect the Colts to be cautious to prevent further injury. The 2023 Wins and Losses aren’t as important for a soft-rebuilding Colts team as Richardson’s long-term health and development.
With Richardson on the sideline for 2 games, new Colts free agent QB Gardner Minshew gets the chance to start. The former Jacksonville Jaguar QB is familiar to Colts fans, but more importantly familiar to Head Coach Shane Stiechen from their last 2 seasons with the Eagles.
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) March 17, 2023
In his 2 starts, he puts up decent numbers as the Colts shift to a more traditional Offense and with a heavier pass split. Minshew is nowhere near the threat that Richardson is on the ground. But through the air, Minshew plays adequately, with decent accuracy and willingness to throw to all 3 levels. He does have a few INTs and isn’t perfect or dynamic enough consistently to put the team on his back. But for a backup QB, he puts up good numbers and relies upon the talent around him to try to win his 2 games.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
Richardson shows enough promise and flashes of his incredible talent to warrant remaining as the Colts starting QB for the foreseeable future. His development is still needed as a passer to be the long-term answer, but Stiechen utilizes his athleticism effectively to add an extra dimension to the Offense. The threat he poses on the ground is immense and defenses have to pay attention to it. This should help the RBs have a bounce-back year efficiency-wise, especially Jonathan Taylor (more on that in the next article).
Anthony Richardson once again showing why he is special.. Something’s you just can’t teach. A 80+ yard rushing TD effortless, makes multiple defenders miss. AR-15 is a true weapon. pic.twitter.com/6byGjUS4EK
— LeBron The GOAT (@realmaceblack) October 16, 2022
His willingness to go deep and arm talent is a godsend to the Colts WRs. Deep threat Alec Pierce makes some impressive strides now that his greatest weapon in his arsenal can be used properly. If Richardson’s accuracy improves and the protection holds, he will have fun finding Pierce streaking downfield on the outside vs MOFC looks.
Colts: tear Defenses apart in the run game with Taylor & the +1 advantage of Richardson in the backfield.
Opponents Ds: Use Middle Of Field Closed coverages to try to stop the run game.
Colts: counter with deep outside shots to Alec Pierce pic.twitter.com/QfJK1drSDp
— Jay Robins 🧾mark (@RobinsLucas) May 1, 2023
Minshew’s 1 year contract is up after this season and should appeal to many teams as a key backup/bridge QB in Free Agency. Him and Richardson do seem to have a good relationship already, so a return to Indy shouldn’t be ruled out.
The future is looking bright in Indy with Richardson, Pierce, Downs, and Woods all on rookie contracts and MPJ + Taylor likely getting extended to stay in Indy long-term. Should Anthony Richardson learn from his rookie mistakes and grow as a passer the 2024-2026 seasons could become special.
More from The Blue Stable:
Which Free Agents (as of 5/26/23) would make sense for the 2023 Colts?: HERE