Patience is a virtue, or so the old saying goes. I’ve never been one to subscribe to that passage, but perhaps it is one that all Colts fans would be good to familiarize themselves with. When it comes to Anthony Richardson, his development will likely not be linear. Ups and downs are inevitable.
But isn’t it a refreshing feeling? Optimism at quarterback? As much as Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan embodied the Colts organization, and as talented as Carson Wentz was, the fan base has lacked a guy to rally around since Andrew Luck’s untimely retirement in 2019.
It Won’t Be Easy, But Anthony Richardson Can Make Colts Fans Forget Andrew Luck
Now, the franchise has found its successor. And dare I say, the young signal-caller could make us all forget about Luck if things go correctly. But for Richardson to reach those lofty expectations, he must be allowed to falter. He must be allowed to make a mistake, return to the drawing board, and correct it. That is, after all, how most elite quarterbacks reach such a status.
His immense physical traits are arguably the most promising part of the new QB1’s game. At 6-foot-4 and approaching 250 pounds, few people on Earth can move the way Richardson does. He put 4.4 speed on display at the NFL Combine and flexed his otherworldly arm strength during throwing drills.
Every person in attendance was in awe each time the 21-year-old took the field in Indianapolis. He even ended the workout with a backflip! Humor me for a second and imagine Rivers, Ryan, or even Luck attempting a backflip. Pretty funny, eh?
Richardson’s Personality And Football IQ Will Make All The Difference
I don’t blame anyone for being enamored by Richardson’s physical prowess. But I would say that his mental makeup is equally as impressive. The Florida product has walked and talked like a professional since hearing his name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. His absurdly deep voice makes you forget how young Richardson actually is; until he smiles, and the kid-like persona shines through.
On the technical side, head coach Shane Steichen has already sunk his philosophy into his new quarterback. Several clips from training camp show the two working in lockstep as Steichen gives tips on footwork and ball placement. And to Richardson’s credit, he is always receptive to the coaching.
Often a high-profile rookie can arrive at training camp with a sense of entitlement. They are making more money than most of the roster, and with a first-round pedigree, they typically have a leg up in positional battles.
The good news for Indy is: The locker room would never allow Richardson to be that way. He has never been a “look at me” guy anyway. That was likely a factor that general manager Chris Ballard considered heavily throughout the NFL Draft process.
Shane Steichen Has A History Of Developing Young QBs
Steichen’s history with Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts leads many to believe Richardson will hit the ground running as a rookie. However, there are a few reasons why the transition could take a little bit longer for the Colts and their young star.
First, Hurts’ breakout season was not his rookie campaign. He had an entire year (and a few starts) under his belt before taking over as the full-time starter. That itself is a major difference. Add in his 56 appearances at Alabama and Oklahoma and it’s clear to see how different Richardson is in comparison.
As far as Herbert goes, he was a much more advanced passer coming out of college than Richardson currently is. He completed 67 percent of passes as a senior and started 43 games in total. Although Herbert got thrown into the fire in Year 1, he had an extensive backlog of experience to lean on.
Richardson is a unique situation for Steichen. He completed only 54 percent of his passes in 2022 — the lone season he started with the Gators. The idea is to blend the run game of Hurts with some of the passing-down concepts of Herbert. It is tricky to navigate. But, if anyone can do it, it is the Colts’ uber-talented signal-caller.
Gardner Minshew Is The Ideal Mentor For Anthony Richardson
The presence of Gardner Minshew cannot be overstated, either. His personality is infectious, always bringing positive energy to any locker room he steps in. In a game that has become as much business as it has pleasure, it is rare to see someone show off their love of football the way he does.
Minshew is a solid passer in his own right, and he knows that the job is Anthony Richardson’s in 2023. The coaching staff said as much when they confirmed the rookie would assume QB1 duties on Week 1 vs. the Jaguars.
It helps that the Minshew-Richardson duo worked out prior to the NFL Draft. This came before either one knew they would be teammates with the Colts. The first-year player couldn’t have a better mentor.
Assessing The Roster Entering The Regular Season
The Jonathan Taylor situation notwithstanding, the Colts offense has shown flashes of brilliance at training camp. Reports say Richardson and Alec Pierce are developing a strong connection downfield. While Richardson’s roommate, Josh Downs, has put together an impressive camp after returning from injury.
The connection with Pierce has stood out the most to those attending practice. In the contest vs. the Bills, the former Bearcat pass catcher put himself in a perfect position to snag a long touchdown pass from Richardson. Alas, Pierce could not survive the ground, resulting in a drop — even if it would have been a difficult grab.
Downs caught two passes and looked slippery with the ball in tow. He fielded a few returns on special teams, highlighting the potential versatility he brings to the table as a rookie. Fans are affectionately calling the Richardson-Downs pairing “Area 51” — a nod to the combined jersey numbers of the two. And a double entendre of sorts, as AR5 is regularly called an alien at quarterback.
The offensive line is poised to bounce back under Steichen. Starting left tackle Bernhard Raimann is noticeably bigger. Veteran Quenton Nelson has been vocal about turning the page on an abysmal 2022 season for the franchise. Things didn’t go particularly well on the right side of the line vs. Buffalo, but we’ll reserve judgment until regular season action gets underway.
Can The Defense Support Anthony Richardson In Year 1?
Shaquille Leonard is cheesing from cheek to cheek and playing without many limitations so far at training camp. He even returned for a few snaps in the team’s preseason opener. The defense missed its leader last year and hopes he can remain healthy for the upcoming campaign. Leonard’s influence is impossible to quantify for the unit.
The cornerback position is witnessing an emergence from Darrell Baker Jr. and Darius Rush. Baker, a 2022 undrafted rookie, broke up a pass last Saturday after being named a starter on the Colts’ first unofficial depth chart.
Rush, a fifth-rounder from the most recent NFL Draft, has missed time during training camp. But the South Carolina alum returned for the preseason opener and instantly made his mark. Early in the third quarter, Rush intercepted a pass and returned it for six points the other way.
For Richardson to feel comfortable, the defense must be reliable. Assuming DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart continue their All-Pro level of play, the Colts just need Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo to live up to their lofty draft status. If Gus Bradley’s defense can generate natural pressure, it will make life easier on the young secondary.
Odeyingbo, Khalid Kareem, and Al-Quadin Muhammad all put up a sack in the opening contest. Grant Stuard forced a fumble and had his fingerprints all over the box score with 12 total tackles, including multiple jaw-dropping stops as the gunner on special teams.
Anthony Richardson Is The Guy. It Is Just A Matter Of Time.
All in all, the roster is suited well for a rookie quarterback. Steichen leads the offensive unit with his brilliant offensive mind, while the defense features several top-tier players at their respective positions.
Anthony Richardson may not be a star today. He may not be a star tomorrow. But soon enough, the Colts will have a quarterback capable of leveling the playing field in a stacked AFC. The journey officially begins on September 10 vs. Jacksonville.
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