National Football League
Have Colts done enough to surround Anthony Richardson with talent?
National Football League

Have Colts done enough to surround Anthony Richardson with talent?

Updated May. 23, 2024 12:38 p.m. ET

What the Indianapolis Colts have done this offseason to build around Anthony Richardson hasn't piqued national interest. Certainly not in the way their AFC South rivals have done for their quarterbacks. 

The Texans added Pro Bowlers Stefon Diggs and Joe Mixon. The Titans invested in Calvin Ridley, Tony Pollard and Tyler Boyd. The Jaguars added Gabe Davis in free agency and used their first-round pick on LSU's Brian Thomas Jr., who led the FBS in receiving touchdowns last season. 

The Colts didn't spend big money on an external offensive skill player this offseason (or any at all, as a matter of fact). Didn't use their top pick on one, either. 

And yet, the Colts have a strong foundation around Richardson. 


We won't know for sure until football is played, of course. But one must start with the tandem of Richardson and star running back Jonathan Taylor, who played just two snaps together last season. 

The dual-threat Richardson flashed potential as Indianapolis' franchise quarterback in the 173 snaps he played as a rookie. And after missing the first four games of 2023 on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and missing another three in December due to a thumb injury, Taylor had returned to his All-Pro form by the end of the season. 

NFL defenses haven't yet experienced how a Richardson-Taylor backfield throws them into conflict. 

There's a whole side to coach Shane Steichen's playbook that we haven't seen. 

"To get those guys reps in the offseason program and going into training camp and getting a feel for each other in the backfield is going to be critical to our success moving forward," Steichen said last month. "I think the communication part is huge. Just them being in the backfield together, communicating that way, the ball-handling aspect of it is big. That's part of their deal, right? They're going to have a lot of ball handling stuff that we've gotta get wired up with those two guys in the backfield whether it's handing the ball off, a zone-read play, whatever it may be. But going through that process, throwing to him out of the backfield and all those different things. That part is going to be huge this offseason and training camp going into the season."

Even without a top free agent or first-round pick added, the Colts' wide receiver room is positioned to be stronger than it was last season. 

The growing rapport between Richardson and standout Michael Pittman Jr., who signed a three-year, $68 million extension in March, is at the top of the list. With at least 900 receiving yards in three of his four NFL seasons, including 1,000 yards in two of the last three years, Pittman has never had the same quarterback for back-to-back seasons. And in 2024, he'll be able to pick up from where he left with Richardson, who played four games as a rookie. 

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Slot receiver Josh Downs, who had 68 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, should naturally make a step forward in Year 2 too. Despite battling a lingering knee injury throughout the year, he broke the franchise's single-season record for receptions by a rookie. He has said he's healthy entering 2024. 

The biggest beneficiary of Richardson's return might be Alec Pierce, who specializes as a deep threat on the outside. He was tied for eighth in the NFL last season with 16.1 yards per reception. But Gardner Minshew, Pierce's quarterback for most of the season, struggled to push the ball down the field. 52.2 percent of Minshew's throws traveled 10 air yards or fewer, the highest rate among the 19 quarterbacks who played at least 500 dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats. That changes with Richardson. In the four games the former Florida star started in 2023 — Weeks 1-2, 4 and 5 — Indianapolis ranked 10th in explosive passes (21), per Pro Football Focus.

And in former Texas star Adonai Mitchell, the Colts got a bonafide first-round talent and a steal at No. 52 overall. He scored five touchdowns in five College Football Playoff games at Georgia and Texas, showing his ability to deliver on the biggest stage.

Tight end Jelani Woods could be sliding under the radar nationally as well. In a position group that is deep but lacks an established No. 1 option, Woods has the most upside as a 6-foot-7 dominant athlete. He had 25 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns as a third-round rookie in 2022, but missed the entirety of last season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He represents a big target for Richardson.  

"The way we've built it — it's been tested over time. If you build things inside out it's going to last, you're going to be competitive," general manager Chris Ballard said earlier this month. "You don't have these huge swings and rides year to year. We felt strong about the roster and what we did in free agency, and again in the draft. I think it's just keeping (Richardson) upright and healthy. It will be fun to watch."

Even if the hype isn't there.

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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