National Football League
Colts ‘couldn't be more excited’ about Year 2 with QB Anthony Richardson
National Football League

Colts ‘couldn't be more excited’ about Year 2 with QB Anthony Richardson

Published Mar. 26, 2024 6:38 p.m. ET

A typically reserved Shane Steichen lit up when talking about how Anthony Richardson sees the game. 

One of the things the Colts coach was most impressed by in Richardson's abbreviated rookie season was the quarterback's processing speed. He knew where to go with the ball quickly, even if it wasn't his first read. 

Steichen pointed to the Tennessee game in Week 5, when Richardson hit wide receiver Josh Downs on a jet motion for a big gain. The ball was supposed to go elsewhere, but Richardson saw a bust in the coverage and capitalized. 

That's one reason why Steichen is so excited for Year 2 with Richardson. 


"His limited stint that he had in those first five weeks [was] impressive to me," Steichen told reporters at the NFL's annual league meeting Monday. "He made some plays that I've never seen guys make."

But what are realistic expectations for last year's No. 4 overall pick in 2024? 

Richardson flashed tantalizing upside as Indianapolis' hopeful franchise quarterback. His Week 4 performance against the Rams was particularly noteworthy. The Colts lost the game 29-23, but he guided a 23-0 second-half run (three total touchdowns, a pair of two-point conversions) to send the game to overtime. 

In the fourth quarter, Richardson did the spectacular, completing a 38-yard jump pass as he was wrapped up by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Aaron Donald

Richardson became the fifth rookie drafted in the top five to rush for at least three touchdowns in the first two weeks of his debut season, joining Marshall Faulk (1994), Eric Dickerson (1983), Billy Sims (1980) and Earl Campbell (1978). Faulk, Dickerson and Campbell are in the Hall of Fame. 

What's also true is that Richardson played just 173 snaps as a rookie, due to a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5. He played just one full game. The mental reps he got from the sidelines and in meetings will serve him moving forward, but this season he's expected to go through many of the on-field hiccups he didn't have as a rookie. 

"Anthony can play from the pocket and throw the ball accurately. Now, he just needs to play," general manager Chris Ballard said at his end-of-season press conference in January. "I think sitting, it's unfortunate, but there is always a little light." 

The Colts have reason to be optimistic that Richardson will be on the field more in the upcoming season. 

The hit in Week 5 that ended his season appeared to be a routine tackle by the Titans' Harold Landry. Of the other injuries Richardson battled in a shortened rookie season, he was most at fault for the one in Week 2 against the Texans, when he admittedly failed to properly brace for a hit en route to the end zone. His head slammed against the turf, causing a concussion that forced him to miss the rest of the game and the following week. 

"There's always and will always be a fine line there," Steichen said. "We need to go make plays, and sometimes making plays might be him running the football. Sometimes him making plays might be him in the pocket. Injuries happen, but obviously we don't want them to happen to that guy."

Colts RB Zack Moss talks Anthony Richardson and Shane Steichen

Richardson said at this end-of-season press conference that he doesn't think his playing style needs to change, but he did acknowledge the need to play smarter in certain situations. 

"I can't try and run through everybody," he said in January. "If it's first-and-10, get what I can get and get down, get out of bounds, get to the sideline and do what I can do. But if the game is on the line, I've got to go out there and compete. It's just a matter of being smart for myself and the team."

In a small sample size, the Colts were a more dynamic and efficient offense with Richardson on the field compared to when backup Gardner Minshew was on the field. 

With Richardson, Indianapolis' passing attack had a better touchdown rate (3.6% compared to 3.1% with Minshew), a higher passer rating (87.3, 84.6), yards-per-attempt mark (6.9, 6.7), EPA per dropback (.01, -.07) and success rate (44.0%, 42.1%), and faced a lower pressure rate than with Minshew (36.0%, 36.9%), according to Next Gen Stats. 

With Richardson, the Colts also rated better in yards per carry (4.6 compared to 4.3) and rushing success rate (40.8%, 38.0%) and saw runs stuffed less frequently (19.9% with Minshew, 19.7% with Richardson), per NGS. 

His presence was the difference between a top-10 and a top-five yards-per-carry mark for the Colts, who had Richardson and star running back Jonathan Taylor on the field together for just two plays in 2023. Imagine what could happen when they get more time together? In the four games Richardson started in 2024 — Weeks 1-2, 4-5 — the Colts were ninth in explosive runs (14) and 10th in explosive passes (21), per Pro Football Focus.

The upside is there. It's why the Colts have brought back most of their own free agents, the idea being that Richardson is the missing piece to elevate the team into the playoffs in 2024. 

Still, Colts fans shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves. 

Step one is getting him back into a practice setting. 

"Obviously, we gotta limit it and monitor it and don't go overboard," Steichen said of Richardson's return. "But I couldn't be more excited to get him back going again."

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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