1. What have you seen from Anthony Richardson so far? The numbers look really impressive. Where is he through a quarter of the season compared to where you thought he would be?
Well, he’s played right around half of the quarters of almost everyone else in the league and he’s leading the league in explosive plays. So things have been pretty exciting at the quarterback position. On the other hand, he is a rookie and on occasion has had moments that remind you that he is a rookie. Knowing the Colts were going to draft a quarterback I watched a lot of tape leading up to the draft and I came to the conclusion that Richardson wasn’t what a lot of people were saying about him. He was inexperienced but he worked reads, his eyes stayed down field and the guy was almost impossible to sack at Florida. He was a quarterback who happened to be an elite athlete, not the other way around.
I was concerned with his accuracy on (oddly enough) short throws and his overall lack of experience. Every team that has spent time looking for a quarterback has inevitably given a guy an opportunity to play and within a couple of drives, everyone watching the game realizes that the new guy just doesn’t have “it”. The moment is too big, the game is too fast, the lights are too bright and the guy taking snaps just doesn’t belong. Given that he only started 13 games at Florida, that was my biggest concern. Would it be too big for him? How would he deal with the pressure? And he has stepped up to every challenge so far. More than anything Anthony Richardson has looked like he belongs. He looks like an NFL quarterback and a really exciting NFL quarterback at that.
The other concern I had came on the few receiver screens and quick hitters the Florida offense dialed up, Richardson’s lower half was completely disjointed from his upper half, his feet were clunky and where those passes were going was anyone’s guess. The tape told me that if he could clean up his footwork on those concepts, his accuracy would likely improve, greatly. I believed that, but he didn’t put it on tape so I wasn’t sure. The worst case scenario for Anthony Richardson this season was that the most athletic quarterback to ever test at the combine would come out and his lower half would somehow still look stiff and everyone in the first five rows of the stadium would be in danger, because the ball leaves his hand at 100 miles per hour. Instead Richardson’s footwork is vastly improved, but there’s still a lot of work for him to do in that area of his game and he will miss some throws from time to time because of it. He’s good for a few overthrows on the sidelines per game right now. Given how well he’s moved the ball in chunks, I can live with a few missed throws his rookie year.
2. What is your impression of Shane Steichen as a head coach so far? What have you liked about him? Anything you haven’t liked so far?
Steichen has been very impressive so far. Given his experience with Jalen Hurts I was hopeful he would build out an offense that would have Richardson playing to his strengths and so far he has come through in that regard. Where Steichen has really shined so far is on the goal line. And sure, it helps when you have a 6’4” 250 pound quarterback that runs a 4.4 40 yard dash, but Steichen has been consistently creative and I think all Colts fans are excited to see how he’ll use Jonathan Taylor once he is completely back.
So far the only issues that anyone could point to would be a few decisions to go on fourth down, rather than kick field goals. I personally haven’t had a problem with his decisions and the only reason any Colts fans have an issue at all is because those fourth downs didn’t convert. Had they converted, nobody would have complained. That’s the nature of fourth down decisions and it’s probably why I don’t really have a strong opinion on them. Steichen hasn’t made a decision that has lost the Colts a game and he’s soldly outcoached multiple opponents this season. Ask me again in 12 months and I might have some grievances to air, but none so far.
3. The Colts opened the practice window for Jonathan Taylor this week. Where do things stand with him and the franchise right now? What are the odds we see him on Sunday?
I don’t believe Jonathan Taylor wants to be a Colt. But the Colts let him seek a trade and we know now that Indy didn’t even receive an early 2nd round offer for him, which was their asking price. The market for running backs has literally never been worse. It’s more profitable to be a guard. Ultimately it seems like Taylor figured that out and he realized his best chance to earn a big contract is by coming out and playing out his contract with the Colts. The thing about Chris Ballard is that he loves to pay his guys and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him give Taylor a near top of market deal after the season if he plays well. But from Taylor’s perspective it would have to be more money than he would be likely to get elsewhere. If he refuses to sign with Indy, I don’t think they just let him leave town. The franchise tag might be an option.
As far as the odds that we’ll see him on Sunday go, I’m just guessing but I’d say the odds are fairly good. Taylor, famously, takes tremendous care of his body and it would shock me if he wasn’t physically ready to play. I doubt the Titans will get a heavy dose but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Taylor on the field for 5-10 snaps.
4. Give us a player we aren’t familiar with that will make an impact on this game.
This past off-season, defensive end Samson Ebukam signed with the Colts after spending the past two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Colts fans were largely underwhelmed but so far his impact has been tremendous. Ebukam is consistently beating tackles and getting to opposing quarterbacks and he does a great job playing the run as well- though he’s the same size as Derrick Henry so I have adjusted my expectations for his run game effectiveness this week. I expect Ebukam will force Ryan Tannehill to speed up his decision making process a couple of times on Sunday.
5. The Titans are 1.5 favorites and the total sits at 43 as of this writing at DraftKings Sportsbook. What is your favorite bet for this game?
I think 43 is low for this game. The Colts lost a starting corner in Dallis Flowers last week and DeForest Buckner has been limited in practice after having his snaps limited to passing downs a week ago and the entire defense seemed to fall apart in his absence. If Buckner is limited, Henry is going to find room to run and the play action game is going to be working against the Colts young defensive backs.
On the other side of the ball, Anthony Richardson is in for a tough test against that Titans defensive line but I think it’s realistic he will lead the offense to a score in the mid-20’s. I think the game will be close but I think taking the over in this one is a good bet.