INDIANAPOLIS – Sorry Colts fans who thought they’d see Anthony Richardson on Saturday night.
The Colts decided to bench Richardson in their lone preseason home game in 2023.
Here is what we learned from the Colts beating the Bears, 24-17:
1. No Anthony RichardsonSource:Getty
For the first time this offseason, I didn’t agree with how the Colts handled their QB reps. The Colts decided not to play Anthony Richardson (or any offensive starters) on Saturday night. For a guy with 13 collegiate starts, live game reps are precious for Anthony Richardson. And this offense needs those to get used to life with Richardson. Remember back in the Thursday joint practice with the Bears, the offense had a trio of illegal men downfield penalties eliminating Richardson completions, as the unit clearly had issues with how to block the run/pass option. And they had several penalties in the first joint practice, too. Plus, it’s beneficial for Richardson to shed the red practice jersey, be in a huddle calling plays and have to react to live game settings, compared to a scripted practice period. Also, the Colts were weirdly coy with this decision all week. On Wednesday, Shane Steichen didn’t give an answer to a question on if Richardson would play against the Bears. Then, Steichen went from being listed as available to the media on Thursday night, to not meeting the media following the final practice of training camp (which is when Matt Eberflus announced Justin Fields would not play on Saturday). I feel a bit for fans who bought tickets to the lone home preseason game thinking they would see Richardson make his Indy debut, while the team decided to hide from any sort of announcement (which is not the norm in the preseason). Didn’t Chris Ballard say at the start of camp how important preseason games would be to evaluate Richardson?
2. Colts Sit Almost All StartersSource:Getty
The Colts ended up sitting 20 of their 22 expected starters on Saturday night. Only cornerbacks Dallis Flowers and Darrell Baker Jr. (should be the 3rd corner on the field in the team’s nickel package) started on Saturday and are expected to be in the lineup come Week 1, too. For me, it’s quite the message to send to a 4-win football team, coming off one of the most embarrassing seasons in decades, with a new head coach to sit 95 percent of your starting lineup in Week 2 of the preseason (remember, only 3 preseason games now). Not to mention a franchise who has had constant issues starting seasons well, while having lost 9 straight season openers. It was especially odd to see the offense, in particular, sit all their starters on Saturday. Yes, you have 2 of the 5 starting offensive linemen currently out (Ryan Kelly and Will Fries). But that unit was the biggest culprit last season and is working with a rookie QB now and a new play caller. Yes, it’s the NFL norm for teams capping a joint practice week to not play their starters in that preseason game. However, I don’t view the Colts as being in a position to follow that precedent when you had such a pathetic previous season, have a rookie starting QB and a new head coach.
3. Starting Cornerbacks PlaySource:Getty
It certainly makes plenty of sense why the Colts played Dallis Flowers and Darrell Baker Jr. on Saturday night. Yes, they are likely Week 1 starters, but the pair of undrafted free agents have played very little, to not at all, in their 2 NFL seasons. Flowers didn’t make his NFL debut on defense until the final 4 games of last season. And Baker Jr. played zero defensive snaps all season. Flowers and Baker Jr. played two series on Saturday, with Flowers getting flagged for a defensive pass interference. Camp is over, but we’ll see if cornerback draft picks JuJu Brents, Darius Rush and/or Jaylon Jones (who continues to flash) can push at all for playing time in the final 3 weeks before Week 1 gets here.
4. Jim Irsay Talks Jonathan TaylorSource:Getty
Jim Irsay shared this on Jonathan Taylor in making his annual trip to the TV booth during the final home preseason game: “We’re excited to have Jonathan Taylor back,” Irsay said on FOX-59. “I know these things are always difficult. I respect anytime people are trying to fight for their position, for their families…I’ve been around it so long, the biggest thing that I preach is ‘Timing is everything.’ We’re really looking forward to him playing his way into being the Jonathan Taylor he was. And we’re really excited to have him. We want to do everything we can to support him and embrace him as a Colt because he’s a great young man. I can’t say enough about him and his family….Look, you have these problems, you never go in with no problems at all. These days you hope you have less contractual problems because the way the CBA is and they work a lot of the things thru. But you have them. I know Chris Ballard is going to work hard and try to get the waters as calm as he can….” Again, I don’t (and didn’t) expect Taylor to practice this week, or next. But that shrinks the ramp up period to the start of the season to just two weeks of practice time for Taylor to get ready for Week 1. Is that enough time for Taylor, who has missed more than 9 months of practice/game action, to be play in the season opener? And if you are looking for the next time we will get more intel into the Taylor situation, how about a week from Tuesday? That’s when the lone roster cut of the preseason takes place. And that is when the Colts will have to make a decision with Taylor in bringing him off the physically unable to perform list and onto the 53-man roster or keeping him on the PUP list, meaning he will miss at least the first four games of the regular season.
5. Who Impressed?Source:Getty
Let’s go over some Colts who impressed on Saturday night. Gardner Minshew got the start and continued his extremely efficient preseason, as he was 13-of-15 in his work that extended deep into the second quarter. Sam Ehlinger was up to his normal August tricks in helping the third teamers for a comeback win over the Bears. Josh Downs played into the second quarter and had two catches for 20 yards. Fellow rookie Will Mallory had a couple of nice grabs as he’s had issues staying healthy this offseason. Newcomer, and former 2nd round pick, James Washington has yet to practice with the Colts but he caught a 42-yarder in the 4th quarter from Ehlinger. The second string offensive line (with that group starting on Saturday) was better against the Bears than it was last week in Buffalo. Defensively, 7th round corner Jaylon Jones continues to impress. Second-year safety Trevor Denbow looks to be in line for a roster spot. Fellow safety Nick Cross had a team-leading 8 tackles in his extended action.
6. Quick HittersSource:Getty
-Offensive Starters: QB-Gardner Minshew, RB-Deon Jackson, LT-Blake Freeland, LG-Carter O’Donnell, C-Danny Pinter, RG-Arlington Hambright, RT-Dan Skipper, WR-Breshad Perriman, WR-Josh Downs, WR-Juwann Winfree, TE-Pharowh Brown
-Defensive Starters: DE-Tyquan Lewis, DT-Taven Bryant, DT-Eric Johnson, DE-Dayo Odeyingbo, LB-Grant Stuard, LB-Cameron McGrone, CB-Dallis Flowers, CB-Tony Brown, CB-Darrell Baker Jr., S-Trevor Denbow S-Nick Cross.
-Injury Report: The following Colts got hurt on Saturday and did not return: DE-Khalid Kareem (rib), LB-JoJo Domann (calf), CB-Darius Rush (hip).
–Key Stat: Gardner Minshew is now 19-of-21 in two preseason games with the Colts.
–What’s Next: The Colts are done with training camp. They will head to Philadelphia on Monday afternoon for a joint practice with the Eagles on Tuesday. They will conclude the preseason with their third and final preseason game on Thursday night in Philly.