INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome back, Anthony Richardson.
The Colts (2-1) will return home on in Week 4 to take on the Rams (1-2), and it sounds like their rookie quarterback has a good chance to be under center.
Here were some takeaways from the Colts first practice of the week:
- Anthony Richardson returned to practice on Wednesday, hitting an important step in his attempt to pass through concussion protocol before Sunday. After missing all 3 practices plus the Baltimore game last week, Richardson’s practice participation on Wednesday gives him a good chance at playing in Week 4 vs. the Rams, as long as he doesn’t have a setback in progression through the protocol (the 5-step concussion protocol is here). Shane Steichen said on Wednesday that Richardson would take the normal starting reps in his practice return. Obviously, this is a good sign in Richardson’s absence only being for one game, and getting back to receiving those valuable practice/game reps for further development. Remember, Richardson has actually missed more quarters of game action (7) than he’s played in (5) during his NFL career. Watching Richardson return and seeing him continue his strong start, potentially alter his playing style after suffering a few injuries, starting to take some chances down the field, etc. are all storylines we will now get back to paying attention to.
- Along with Richardson’s practice return, so did center Ryan Kelly, who also missed all of last week due to a concussion. For Kelly, how much time he was going to miss had some extra attention due to a previous concussion in 2017, which sidelined him for more than a month. So it’s a great sign to see Kelly return to practice after missing just one week. Plus, the return of the longest tenured offensive player comes in a critical week with future first ballot Hall of Famer in Aaron Donald on the other side. Last week, third-string center Wesley French managed things fairly well in his first career start. Of course, facing Donald is a totally different animal as one of the greatest defensive linemen of all-time is the opposition in Week Four. As Shane Steichen pointed out on Wednesday, Donald is one of the rare interior defensive linemen you have to identify pre-snap before every play, stressing the need to execute a “great plan” to neutralize the future Hall of Famer. Donald moves across the line, although it’s probably likely he will test young right guard Will Fries a lot.
- Zack Moss had 18 carries in his 2023 debut in Week Two, and then had 30 carries in Sunday’s overtime win. Shane Steichen said Moss was feeling good on Monday, despite the heavy workload. “(Moos) felt good,” Steichen said. “He ran hard. He felt good today, so look forward to this week…as long as he can take (the workload), he’ll take it.” It remains to be seen if the Colts feel a 20-25-ish carry workload for Moss is sustainable, as the supposed return of Jonathan Taylor inches closer.
- Through the first 3 weeks of the season, Michael Pittman Jr. has put up this weekly production: 8 catches for 97 yards, 8 catches for 56 yards, 9 catches for 77 yards. You have to go back to Reggie Wayne in 2011-12 to find the last time a Colts player produced three straight games of at leads 8 catches and 50 yards receiving. It’s pretty crazy T.Y. Hilton never accomplished that. By no means am I saying Pittman is better than Hilton or has proven himself as an unquestioned top-flight wideout in this league. But I do think we need to acknowledge the impressive consistency from Pittman, for an offense where the unit doesn’t have a lot of pop, or elite quarterback play. Shane Steichen has done a good job in peppering high percentage targets to Pittman early in the season. Pittman is also the only player in the NFL with at least 8 catches in every game this season. Pretty good start to a contract year for Pittman, someone Shane Steichen has labeled as “the enforcer.”
- For the second straight season, the Colts exit Week 3 off a very notable victory. Last year it was beating the Kansas City Chiefs. If you care about the levels of optimism following both of those wins, I think there’s plenty of reason for fans to have more of it this year, versus last. Just compare the Colts 12 quarters of football played to start this season (competitive loss to the Jaguars, multi-score road win over Houston, win over Baltimore), vs. last season (fortunate tie in Houston, shutout loss in Jacksonville, win over Kansas City). The Colts have certainly played much better this season through 3 weeks than they did last year. Reason for more optimism after another Week 3 notable win?
- Is this a “schedule win” for the Colts this week? The Rams played on Monday Night Football in Cincinnati, then flew back to L.A. So, their start to Colts prep came on a very sleep deprived Tuesday, and then they’ll fly back to the eastern time zone on Saturday for a Sunday kick that’ll be 10:00 AM back home. That has to be a major advantage Colts here in Week 4. The Colts are an early 1-point favorite over the Rams.
- It’s quite possible the Colts are going to see a backup left tackle for the fourth straight game this season. Disrupting the efficient timing of Matthew Stafford is a must on Sunday. And the Rams had offensive line injury issues in their loss to the Bengals on Monday, leading to 10 hits and 6 sacks against Stafford. The Colts have already faced 6 backup offensive linemen in 3 games this season, and it looks like that number could grow on Sunday (with the Colts only having to go into the OL depth once). A very impressive start to the Indy defensive line this season has a great chance to continue on Sunday.
- At 2-1, the Colts enter Week 4 sitting atop the AFC South. It’s a pretty foreign place for the Colts here as of late. You have to go back nearly four years—some 60 weeks of regular season football—to the mid-way point of the 2019 season, for the last time the Colts had sole position of first place in the division. Following this week, the Colts will get back into divisional play by taking on the Titans (1-2) and travel to Jacksonville (1-2). At that point, following Week 6, the Colts will have already played 4 of their 6 AFC South games in the 2023 season.
- Starting Sunday, the Colts will play 4 of their next 5 games at home. With a 2-1 record and leading the AFC South, the Colts certainly are facing an upcoming stretch with the ability to push their divisional lead even further.
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