When the Indianapolis Colts selected Anthony Richardson with the fourth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, it was viewed as a move for the future and a bet on the player with the highest upside. With rookie minicamps underway, the timeline for Richardson to start might be accelerating.
The former Florida Gators quarterback played in just 19 games over the last two seasons, completing just 54.7 of his passes with a 23-14 TD-INT ratio. With NFL evaluators seeing flaws in his mechanics that need to be fixed and a penchant for inaccurate throws, most believed the best move for Richardson would be to develop and watch from the sideline in his rookie season.
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However, that plan might not come to fruition for Indianapolis. After already drawing strong reviews for his performance in rookie minicamp and in combination with comments from the Colts’ organization about Richardson, some around the league believe he might start in the Colts’ regular-season opener.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on SportsCenter that the Colts are quickly working to accelerate Richardson’s familiarity with the offense. While he will be challenged by Gardner Minshew, a majority of NFL teams believe Richardson could be the starter in Week 1.
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“I’m told Indy has gotten to work with Anthony Richardson in a hurry, trying to get that install going because the pleasantries are over. … They’ve done their homework. Now they want to get him ready to play because a lot of teams I’ve talked to believe that he’ll be possibly the Week 1 starter.”
While Richardson’s mechanics are a work in progress and the issues currently lead to more inaccurate throws, he’s fairly advanced mentally. At Florida, he frequently displayed the ability to maintain his composure under pressure, make anticipatory throws and knew how to navigate inside and outside the pocket.
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Viewed as a more physically-talented player than Jalen Hurts, playing in Shane Steichen’s offense could also help accelerate Richardson’s timeline to start. The first-year Colts’ coach helped Justin Herbert set rookie records with the Los Angeles Chargers then designed an offense around Hurts’ strengths and hid his weaknesses in the Philadelphia Eagles offense.
Public pressure and a desire from owner Jim Irsay to see Richardson play immediately could also influence the Colts’ decision. While Minshew has performed fairly well in his opportunities as a starting quarterback, he’s a low-ceiling starter whose lack of physical tools puts constraints on an NFL offense.
While the Colts’ offensive line is still a work in progress, the front office has assembled a quality supporting cast of offensive weapons to support a rookie quarterback. Just as fans saw in Philadelphia, Steichen could also use a run-heavy approach with Jonathan Taylor to take some of the weight off Richardson’s shoulders.
Minshew will likely enter training camp atop the Colts’ depth chart and receive the larger share of first-team reps in practice this July. With Richardson receiving more opportunities in preseason games and stronger fan support behind him, though, it’s reasonable to think he’ll be the starting quarterback in Week 1.
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