INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts have put the much-needed injection of life back into their franchise, thanks to the drafting of Anthony Richardson.
Now, it’s all about developing and supporting their franchise quarterback.
And the developmental period of Richardson is so much of the focus for this 2023 season.
Let’s not get into wins and losses here.
In the last decade, 14 rookie quarterbacks have started the opener. They’ve averaged 5 wins per season, with Dak Prescott (13-3) and Mac Jones the only QBs to have a winning record as rookies.
What Richardson needs to show this season is he is the guy, and there’s no need to debate the potential of a “disaster draft debate.” That would be the Colts holding the No. 1 draft pick in 2024, and having to debate whether to take Caleb Williams at No. 1, or stick with Richardson.
For that conversation to happen it would likely mean Richardson struggled mightily in Year One and bring up quite the conversation in 2024.
Here’s a look at what the Colts need to see from Richardson in Year One:
Since high school, we’ve seen Anthony Richardson play in two different game settings—college football and NFL preseason games.
In college, Richardson was 215-of-393 for 54.7 percent.
In the preseason action, Richardson was 13-of-29 for 44.8 percent
Of the 12 rookie quarterbacks who attempted at least 20 passes this preseason, Richardson is last on that list at 44.8 precent (every other rookie QB was at 54 percent or higher).
Perhaps, the preseason action matters none to Richardson’s future, but it was a reminder of a question on his game.
How much this does eventually matter and/or will it be a hinderance in Richardson reaching his potential remains to be seen?
The Colts don’t need Richardson completing 70-some percent of his passes. And that’s, likely, not realistic.
But they certainly need to see a jump, with Shane Steichen aiding that via scheming and game plan.
Big Play Ability
A massive reason why the Colts don’t need Richardson hitting 7 of 10 passes on a consistent basis is because what he can offer in a blink of an eye.
Playmaking is the word most used by Chris Ballard and Shane Steichen with Richardson now as the starter.
Richardson offers a big play element with his arm, and legs, that the Colts clearly covet. And understandably so.
Again, this part of Richardson’s game has to be there, assuming he’s not going to be the consistent, accurate thrower.
More than anything, exposing Richardson to game reps so early in his rookie season gives him experience you simply can’t script.
You throw an interception. How do you respond?
You are down 4 points with the ball and there’s 2:30 left in the game. How do you respond?
You are at your own 20-yard line with 1:45 to go in the first half. How do you respond?
You are in a hostile road environment in Baltimore. How do you respond?
And there are so, so so many more opportunities Richardson will see in 2023 that he’s never had to deal with in his football career, let alone at this level.
Richardson really covets conversations with his mental coach, Brett Ledbetter. So Ledbetter will be a key figure in Richardson dealing with this continued journey, one that’s entering a phase with so many more years and attention on him.
Shane Steichen isn’t someone too worried about that run/not run balance with Richardson.
He’s going to dial up plays for Richardson that will try to accentuate his strengths, which (obviously) includes making plays with No. 5’s legs.
But it’s still something to monitor as you consider wear and tear impacting the longevity of Richardson being Richardson.
At Florida, Richardson averaged 8.5 rushes per game.
Will that number be bigger or smaller in the NFL?
Handling The Moment
This will be the hardest to quantify.
Richardson didn’t spend his childhood/early high school years as some ballyhooed can’t miss quarterback prospect, pursued heavily by all the major teams in college football.
So it’s pretty amazing he is about to start his first ever NFL game as a recently turned 21-year-old rookie.
From having to live in other family’s back rooms growing up, to bouncing around foster homes, now Richardson is here as the face of an NFL franchise.
The work ethic of Richardson’s mom has driven that into her oldest son. “It would be a disservice to my mom not to work as hard as I can,” Richardson says.
Fittingly, Richardson makes his debut against the Jaguars, as the nearest NFL team to where he played his high school and collegiate games.
SEC life is pretty darn close to the NFL, but it’s not this stage.
How will Richardson handle it all?
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