The Indianapolis Colts have not had the same opening day starter at the quarterback position in back-to-back years since Andrew Luck in 2015-2016. The team has had nine starting quarterbacks since that span began and hasn't won a playoff game since 2018.
Head coach Shane Steichen and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson hope to change that in each of their first years at the helm.
Shane Steichen was hired on Feb. 14 following his two-year stint in Philadelphia as the team's offensive coordinator — an offense that scored 35 points in its Super Bowl loss. Steichen was with the Los Angeles Chargers for seven years as an offensive quality control coach, quarterback coach and eventually offensive coordinator. Steichen has worked with quarterbacks Phillip Rivers, Justin Herbert, and most recently was integral in the development of Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
Those in the front office in Indy, including owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard, are hopeful that Steichen can have the same success on the project that Richardson will be.
Richardson was born in Miami, Florida, about 340 miles south of Gainesville where his college football career electrified Florida Gators fans across the nation. The Colts selection with the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft possesses as much athleticism as the NFL has ever seen at the quarterback position. He lacks experience, with only 13 starts in his career, tied with Mitchell Trubisky for the least amount of starts by a first-round quarterback selection since 2002. Richardson completed an alarming 54.7% of his passes in his career with 24 touchdowns and another 12 rushing with 15 interceptions.
However, when Richardson runs out of the tunnel during week one in the Colts’ first matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, it will not be his first time performing in Lucas Oil Stadium. In early March, Richardson amazed scouts and fans alike with his ridiculous NFL draft combine statistics. Richardson’s 40-yard dash time, 4.43 seconds, was the fourth fastest ever recorded by a quarterback at the combine, while also setting the vertical and broad jump records for quarterbacks.
One college stat that must be addressed from Richardson is his range of success between play-action passes and non-play action plays. When in play-action sets where Richardson faked handoffs to the likes of Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne he found success with a 11 touchdown to two interception clip. Inversely, Richardson struggled in all other passing sets with a sub-par six touchdown to seven interception spread. This is important to address because of the situation that has dominated the Indianapolis Colts offseason.
The 2021 NFL rushing yardage leader officially requested a trade on July 29 following a mirage of public and private conversations revolving around his current contract situation. Taylor is earning a base salary of $4.3 million in his final year of his rookie contract, but expressed a desire for a long-term deal in June. Concerns of his lingering ankle injury and his lack of production last season — 861 yards while only playing 11 games — have been the main catalyst for Irsay and the Colts organization’s hesitation to offer a deal.
Second-year back Deon Jackson and rookie Evan Hull will do what they can to fill the void that is being left by Taylor, but only time will tell if the lack of an explosive back will hinder the development of Richardson.
Key free agent and rookie acquisitions
- Isaiah McKenzie - Wide Receiver - Buffalo Bills
- Samson Ebukam - Edge - Los Angeles Rams
- Matt Gay - Kicker - Los Angeles Rams
- Rookie JuJu Brents - Cornerback - Kansas State
- Rookie Josh Downs - Wide Receiver - North Carolina
Key player losses
- Yannick Ngakoue - Edge - Chicago Bears
- Stephon Gilmore - Cornerback - Traded to Dallas Cowboys
- Isaiah Rodgers - Cornerback - Suspended indefinitely for gambling
While the excitement around having a new head coach and a new quarterback is palpable, there is still the fact that both are rookies at the positions and there will be struggles and learning curves.
The offensive line should have more success this season with a mobile quarterback and the development of Bernhard Raimann who looks to help staples of the offensive line Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith return to their dominant forms. The front seven of the defense looks to have a remarkable year with the run-stopping abilities of Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner and the anticipated return of Shaquille Leonard alongside franchise single-season tackle leader Zaire Franklin.
The Colts will feel the full effects of the loss of starting cornerbacks Gilmore and Rodgers with inexperienced players such as Dallis Flowers, Darrell Baker Jr. and Brents having significant roles. This roster has some high quality position groups, but the lack of experience and few veteran leaders — no players over the age of 30 — will hurt this team. I wouldn't expect this team to surpass more than six wins barring an incredible rookie year from Richardson and breakout years from multiple players in the secondary.