WESTFIELD, Ind. — Anthony Richardson represents the Indianapolis Colts’ future, and that future begins Saturday at Buffalo.
Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen announced Thursday after the team’s 10th training camp practice that Richardson, who has been competing against veteran Gardner Minshew for the starting job at quarterback, will start against the Buffalo Bills in both team’s preseason opener. Indianapolis’ No. 4 pick found out a few minutes before practice that he’ll take the first snap during his NFL debut.
“I get to go out there and showcase what I’m able to do with the (first unit) a little bit,” Richardson said. “The first NFL experience, I’m excited for it. It’s the same rodeo. Just get to play ball again.”
Steichen said he opted to start Richardson because he just wants “to see where he’s at,” while also keeping in mind that Richardson must protect himself. The dual-threat rookie started just 13 games at Florida, and the importance of getting him live reps has been emphasized by Steichen, general manager Chris Ballard and owner Jim Irsay since Richardson was drafted in April.
“That’s one of his powers that makes him a dynamic player,” Steichen said of Richardson’s running ability. “Obviously being safe, he just has a natural feel, too. Watching his college tape, getting down and being smart, it’ll be good to see him in live action on Saturday.”
Richardson has had an up-and-down training camp, which was to be expected for a player as raw and inexperienced as him. The 21-year-old was on fire last weekend, making all of the throws and plays with his legs that give Indianapolis reason to believe he could be a franchise QB. However, he came back down the to earth during the week and had a rough showing Thursday. Richardson took all of the first-team reps and finished 5-of-12 passing in 11-on-11. Several of the rookie’s throws lacked the touch or accuracy necessary to be turned into completions.
Minshew was 7-of-11 passing in 11-on-11, sprinkling the ball around with short and intermediate throws. The veteran has been more accurate and consistent since training camp began July 26, but he’s rarely pushed the ball down field. Richardson, on the other hand, has had the majority of explosive plays throughout camp. After a few errant passes, the former Florida QB ripped a back shoulder throw down the sideline to Alec Pierce, which was arguably the best throw by any quarterback during Thursday’s practice. Richardson also connected with Michael Pittman Jr. for a touchdown in seven-on-seven.
“I think I’ve taken a big step regarding everything,” Richardson said. “Whether it’s chemistry, play calling or even just recognition of the defense, I feel like I’ve grown a lot, but (there’s) still room for improvement. Hopefully I can just keep on pushing.”
Steichen said it’s a “case by case” decision for how long the starters will play, but ideally, he’d like to keep them out there for about a quarter. One starter who likely won’t be available against the Bills is right tackle Braden Smith, who missed Thursday’s practice with a knee injury. Steichen said it “shouldn’t be too long” until he returns.
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Jonathan Taylor’s status is much cloudier. The star running back, who requested a trade after not being offered a contract extension, remains on the PUP list and was not in attendance for the second straight practice Thursday. Steichen said any time Taylor isn’t visible on the sideline during practice it’s because he’s rehabbing his right ankle, which he had surgery on in January. Taylor “should be” back with the team next week, according to Steichen, but as for participating in practice?
“I don’t have an answer for that, a timetable,” Steichen said. “But really looking forward to getting him back and getting him healthy and then getting out there with the guys.”
Taylor’s absence will continue to hover over the Colts, especially since backups Zack Moss (broken arm) and Deon Jackson (quad) are sidelined as well. However, regardless of who lines up in the backfield Saturday, all eyes will be on the rookie signal caller.
Richardson said he’s unsure if his family will make it to Highmark Stadium to root him on in person because his little brother, Corey Carter, has a football game the same day. But he hopes to give them plenty to cheer for whether it’s from the stands or back home in Indianapolis.
“Get a victory,” Richardson said of his goal for Saturday. “Showcase my talents, my ability and just be a leader and just push the team.”
(Photo: Mykal McEldowney / USA Today)
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