untung99.biz: Anthony Richardsons development leads four key questions for 2023 Colts

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After a disastrous 4-12-1 campaign, the Colts are turning the page to 2023 with a new coach in Shane Steichen and a new quarterback in rookie Anthony Richardson, their highest-drafted signal-caller since Andrew Luck. 

Here are four key questions surrounding Indianapolis ahead of training camp, with the offseason program now in the books: 

1. How quickly will Anthony Richardson become the starting quarterback? 

With Richardson being the No. 4 overall pick, the Colts’ future and hopeful franchise quarterback, there are external expectations that he’ll become QB1 quickly. Indianapolis’ top decision-makers know that he needs to play to get better, too. Richardson is 21 years old and started just 13 games at the University of Florida, so the biggest thing he lacks is experience. 

Therein lies the Colts’ dilemma. Richardson — a 6-foot-4, 244-pound unicorn who tested better than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL Combine — needs to be thrown into the fire, but not at the expense of his confidence. 

That’s why veteran backup QB Gardner Minshew is so valuable. He spent two years in Philadelphia with Steichen, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. Minshew knows Steichen’s playbook and expectations. If Richardson needs time to develop, Minshew — who has 24 career starts across four seasons — is very capable of beginning the year as QB1. 

Richardson and Minshew split first-team reps throughout OTAs and minicamp. 

2. Who is going to step up at cornerback? 

Isaiah Rodgers Sr. is still under investigation by the NFL for possible violations of the league’s gambling policy. If he’s suspended, an already inexperienced and young cornerback room will be put into an even more precarious situation.

The Colts traded Stephon Gilmore to the Cowboys back in March. And outside of veteran Kenny Moore, who primarily plays nickel back, the group includes three rookie draft picks (second-rounder JuJu Brents, fifth-rounder Darius Rush, seventh-rounder Jaylon Jones) and back-end depth with a combined seven NFL starts. 

As a high pick, Brents may be asked to be a productive starter as a rookie. But he didn’t participate in on-field work during the offseason program due to wrist surgery, stemming from an injury at Kansas State. He should be on the field for the start of training camp, but it could take him a while to get back into playing shape, let alone adjust to NFL speed and competition. 

Dallis Flowers, a 2022 UDFA who emerged as an electrifying kick returner as a rookie (he led the NFL with 31.1 yards/kick return), is another candidate to step up. He appeared in 13 games last season, including one start. 

There are a number of veteran cornerbacks still available in free agency who the Colts could pursue, including Marcus Peters, Eli Apple and Casey Hayward Jr.

Anthony Richardson under most pressure of QBs in 2023 draft class?

3. Will running it back with the same OL pay off? 

The Colts’ high-priced offensive line finished 2022 better than it started, but the overall product was still very underwhelming. 

Indy’s offensive line gave up 60 sacks, second-most in the league. The line simply couldn’t keep 37-year-old QB Matt Ryan upright. Furthermore, the rush lanes were smaller and showed up less frequently for star running back Jonathan Taylor. 

And the Colts have done little to upgrade up front this offseason. The starters are expected to be the same as last year: left tackle Bernhard Raimann, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Will Fries, right tackle Braden Smith. Indianapolis didn’t sign any offensive linemen in free agency. The team picked up two linemen on Day 3 of the draft — BYU’s Blake Freeland (fourth round) and Northern Michigan’s Jake Witt (seventh round) — but they’re depth moves at best. Freeland could be the swing tackle behind Smith and Raimann. Witt figures to be more of a project as he’s played offensive line for only a couple years (13 starts in college). 

Indianapolis’ O-line has a lot riding on the development of Raimann, who had a rough start to his rookie season (he allowed five pressures in his first career start, against the Broncos in Week 5, per Pro Football Focus). But it’s not uncommon for rookie offensive tackles to struggle, and Raimann gradually improved. The former third-round pick also added 15 pounds this offseason, which should help him hold up against opposing edge rushers. 

The onus is also on the Colts’ new offensive line coach, Tony Sparano Jr., to maximize the potential of a group that is largely the same. Before joining Steichen’s staff, Sparano spent the past five seasons as an assistant offensive line coach with the Jaguars (2017-20), Panthers (2021) and Giants (2022). 

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4. What’s next for Jonathan Taylor in Indianapolis?

There are two things with the star running back, who’s entering the last year of his rookie deal, that are drawing intrigue: 1) his health and 2) whether the Colts will pay him top dollar. 

The reality is that the two might be intertwined. 

After missing six games last season due to an ankle injury — and the fact that he already plays a devalued, short-shelf-life position — Taylor must show that he can regain his All-Pro form of 2021. 

Even in rough RB market, Colts star Jonathan Taylor hopeful for extension

In the spring, general manager Chris Ballard said a running back deserves top dollar as long as he’s a “special playmaker.” The Colts have a history of rewarding homegrown stars at non-premium positions, too (Quenton Nelson, Shaquille Leonard). 

But Indianapolis will likely want to see Taylor, who has logged more than 1,600 carries since his freshman year at Wisconsin, on the field before making any decision on an extension. He didn’t participate in on-field work during the offseason program following ankle surgery in January.

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 SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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