For all of the great discourse surrounding Anthony Richardson and his Week 1 performance, there are still a few plays the young rookie would probably love to have back. That being said, Sunday was a step forward for the Florida product as he begins to get his feet wet.
The title of this article may come across as cynical. However, when I saw this play happen, I knew I had to break it down because of several fascinating elements. I hope to do these quick film breakdowns with key highlights and lowlights for 1-2 plays each game as we progress through the season. Without further ado, let’s dive into the tape.
Above is the interception from the All-22 angle.
Anthony Richardson Had A Strong Debut, But There Is Plenty To Learn For The Colts’ QB1
The Colts came out in a condensed 12-personnel set on 2nd and 10. The Jaguars aligned to this with a four-man front and a light box of six. Travon Walker is set up outside Mo Alie-Cox and looks pre-snap like he’ll probably drop into a shallow flat zone. However, to Anthony Richardson, this may look like Cover 1 pre-snap. Andre Cisco (No. 5) is positioned about 7 yards deep as Richardson scans the field during his pre-snap read. That puts Cisco in a gray area, which the Jags do purposefully. It is meant to confuse Richardson on what the safeties’ job will be on the play.
Richardson identifies that each defender is playing outside leverage of his closest receiving threat, essentially funneling them to the middle of the field safety. That is usually an indicator of Cover 1 because the man defenders want to win outside where they don’t have any help. Unfortunately, in the NFL, pre-snap coverage identifications rarely stay the same after the snap.
Another giveaway that the Jaguars will likely rotate out of this coverage post-snap is that Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator, Mike Caldwell, will not ask Travon Walker to cover Mo Alie-Cox one-on-one with no help. For those wondering if Jake Funk’s motion was supposed to help Richardson ID coverage, I’d chalk it up to little more than window dressing. All that would happen here is the linebackers would switch responsibilities on the back if he flares — if they were executing Cover 1 responsibilities.
See how much information Richardson needs to process in about three seconds? Take into account that Sunday was his 14th career start since high school (excluding preseason), and you see how amazing it is that this 21-year-old played as well as he did in the midst of all of this.
Even Richardson’s Worst Snap Of The Day Provided Promise
Now, onto the post-snap.
Andre Cisco bails when Richardson looks down to snap the ball. Then, suddenly, within a half second, the picture has completely changed. The Jaguars drop into a MOFO (middle of the field open) look by using Travon Walker as an extra flat defender to guard the sidelines. Tyson Campbell (No. 32) forces Michael Pittman Jr. to inside release before sinking into a shallow flat zone where he can bait Anthony Richardson, thus confirming Cover 2.
A reason for this turnover is Alie-Cox and Pittman running similar routes, failing to stretch the defense. The idea behind the route concept is to pull the deep safety with a flag route and create enough space to hit the deep out-route over the flat defender. As a flat corner in this situation, Campbell is taught to make the read tough on Richardson by squeezing the out-route and then rallying up to the flat-route of the running back.
In my estimation, beyond Funk’s route not pulling Campbell down more, Walker’s flat help also put Richardson in a bind. Colts head coach Shane Steichen didn’t want Richardson to think too much last week. Therefore, he incorporated a ton of half-field progressions into the game plan.
Richardson was only asked to read one side of the field instead of going through a full-field progression. The Jaguars knew this and began protecting the sideline to the boundary side. Thus, the Colts eventually called a play that the Jaguars had blanketed on all levels.
His Progress May Not Be Linear In 2023, But Indy Has A Vision For Anthony Richardson
As Richardson develops, the coaching staff will incorporate more full-field concepts. This should lead to opportunities for more exciting, explosive plays downfield. Even in this example, I’d love to see Richardson come off the flood concept and drive the backside dig to Alec Pierce for a first down. These adjustments take time, as the quarterback typically only has a split-second to read the backside and let it rip.
It will be entertaining to watch Anthony Richardson grow and learn in real-time during the 2023 campaign. He will have more than a few mistakes, that is undeniable. But the first-year signal-caller seems willing to learn from each one according to those in the organization.
His debut season will be a roller coaster throughout, with highs, lows, twists, and turns. I will document a few as the season goes on. Hopefully, we can look back six months from now and see Richardson trending in a positive direction.
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