untung99.biz: Colts mailbag Anthony Richardsons path to QB1 Kwity Payes breakout chances

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Colts training camp is on the horizon, but before I begin baking under the summer sun at Grand Park in Westfield, I wanted to hear from you all to see what was on your minds. A lot, apparently! Thanks so much for sending in your questions for this mailbag. You sent so many good ones, we decided to break it into two parts. This is Part I, with Part II landing early next week.

OK, without any further ado, let’s dive into your questions.

(Editor’s note: Questions have been edited for clarity.)

What concrete signs can we look for, good or bad, to see how the team really feels about Anthony Richardson and his development? Number of first-team reps in camp, picking up another veteran QB, sub packages implemented before he takes starting job, etc.? — AJ M.

It’s likely your first guess: first-team reps. Richardson has a lot of growing to do, and while Gardner Minshew was brought in to help mentor him, it’s not like Minshew is going to lie down and give the rookie the starting job. Richardson must show strides with his grasp of the playbook, throwing mechanics and leadership to garner more first-team reps throughout the summer. My belief is that Richardson won’t be a better quarterback than Minshew, a five-year vet, by Week 1. That’s an impossible ask for a player who started just 13 college games.

If the gap between Minshew and Richardson is wide, however, I believe the first-team reps will gradually start to reflect that, and Minshew would be QB1. On the flip side, if Richardson is progressing at a steady rate, I expect him to receive more first-team reps until the Colts finally pull the trigger and name him the starter.


Colts 53-man roster projection: CB, TE depth chart in flux ahead of training camp

Reading the tea leaves, what will it take for coach Shane Steichen and the coaching staff to have Richardson start Week 1 instead of Minshew? What benchmarks will Richardson have to hit? — Samuel K.

I think the biggest factor in Richardson starting Week 1 will be improving his consistency during training camp and preseason. As I’ve previously written, Richardson would often make the best throw of rookie minicamp, OTAs and veteran minicamp, but his overall performance was turbulent. That will need to change in order for him to take the reins in the season opener. Again, I don’t think Richardson will be better than Minshew come September, but there needs to be tangible progress so the gap between the two QBs isn’t so wide that it becomes unjustifiable for Steichen to start Richardson.

Why have we not seen Richardson sign his rookie contract? — Daniel K.

This isn’t abnormal, so you have nothing to worry about. First-round picks, especially quarterbacks, tend to take a little longer to sign their rookie deals. Richardson’s camp is likely waiting on the quarterbacks picked ahead of him in the draft — Bryce Young (Carolina) and C.J. Stroud (Houston) — to sign their deals and set standards for the class. Expect Richardson to sign shortly after one or both of them do.

For the record, second-round pick Julius Brents and fourth-round pick Blake Freeland also remain unsigned, along with around 20 other drafted rookies across the NFL (as of this writing). When negotiations with rookies drag, it’s typically because agents are haggling with teams to secure more guaranteed money for their clients.


Joe Burrow, Jimmy Garoppolo and one summer concern for all 32 NFL teams

Are the Colts really going to stand pat at right guard and not bring in a solid veteran for real competition? This feels like a repeat of last year, even after general manager Chris Ballard said he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. — Kevin

I thought the Colts did well in the draft, but the reason I’m a bit lower on their haul than most is because they didn’t properly address the offensive line. Freeland was a good pickup in the fourth round, though for now, he’s only a swing tackle. It appears Ballard is content to run it back with the same starting five offensive linemen who ended last season, including Will Fries at right guard.

That speaks to two things: 1. The team has a lot of faith in new offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. to fix a unit that allowed the second most sacks (60) in the NFL last season. 2. Ballard may be hesitant to pay a proven starter, for example Dalton Risner, in free agency because he’s already committed $200 million combined to Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith in recent contract extensions.

I agree that it feels similar to 2022, so we’ll have to just wait and see if Ballard’s gamble has a better outcome than it did a year ago. The Colts better hope so because there’s no way Richardson will be able to properly develop if he’s running for his life every weekend.

Is Colts pass rusher Kwity Paye primed for a breakout season? (Cooper Neill / Getty Images)

I’m a big fan of Kwity Paye, and I’m ready for a breakout season where he is free of injuries and able to take advantage of his freakish athleticism. Am I standing in the Paye line alone, or are others also expecting him to put it all together this season? — Paul D.

You’re not alone. I expect more from Paye this season, and we probably would’ve been having a different conversation had he not hurt his ankle on a fluke play last year. Paye finished with a career-high six sacks despite missing five games, and after Indianapolis decided not to re-sign Yannick Ngakoue, that tells me they’re banking on Paye and fellow third-year defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo to step up.

What does the Week 1 tight end depth chart look like? How is Andrew Ogletree’s recovery progressing? Will Kylen Granson or the rookie, Will Mallory, get cut? — Wyatt

The tight end room is the toughest one for me to map out, because I can see it going in so many directions during training camp. Since I don’t like riding the fence, I’ll go with Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox as TE1 and TE2, respectively, with Granson as the first backup in Week 1.

Woods was out with a hamstring injury during OTAs and veteran minicamp, so he has to get back in the groove, but it’s hard for me to see an offensive guru like Steichen not finding a way to utilize Woods’ size, speed and athleticism. Alie-Cox gets the nod as the other starter because of his veteran presence and blocking, which isn’t the greatest but still puts him firmly ahead of Woods and Granson in that category.

I’m not sure how Mallory fits into the equation yet, especially since he missed the spring with a foot injury, but I think he has an outside chance to make the 53-man roster with a strong showing in camp. The final cut at tight end may come down to Mallory or Ogletree, who impressed in training camp last year before tearing his ACL. We haven’t received a clear timeline on when Ogletree will be fully cleared, but he’ll be about 11 months removed from the injury when training camp begins July 25.

What will Charlie Gelman’s responsibilities be during games? Since this will be the first time Steichen is calling plays while being the head coach, in-game management could be a challenge as we saw last year with Frank Reich. — Josh L.

Gelman was hired in May as the Colts’ game manager, for those who may have missed it. He was a football analyst for the Ravens last year. Gelman’s job and background involve a lot of data and analytics, but beyond that I’m not sure what his exact role will be on game days. That’s a good question to ask Steichen when we next see him.

Putting aside that I love the Steichen hire, what does it say about the Colts’ leadership that they didn’t pursue a big name like Sean Payton? — Phil T.

It says the Colts were unwilling to part ways with draft capital in order to bring Payton in. Unlike Steichen, and many other candidates who landed head coaching gigs in this cycle, Payton wasn’t able to simply choose his next destination since he was still under contract with New Orleans. Denver traded its 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick in exchange for Payton and New Orleans’ 2024 third-round pick. If Indianapolis had done this exact trade, Richardson would be on a different team, and the Colts would still need a QB.

Which current Colts player would make the best two-way player, similar to what Shohei Ohtani is doing for the Angels? — Mike R.

I know he hasn’t played an NFL game yet, but my pick is Anthony Richardson. He’s probably the most physically gifted athlete I’ve seen up close other than LeBron James. Richardson and Cowboys star edge rusher Micah Parsons have nearly identical body frames, so in a different universe I could see Richardson being drafted fourth as a defensive lineman instead of a quarterback.

Will there be a podcast? — Chris S.

Yes! My editor, Jim Ayello, will be my new co-host. Some of you may be familiar with Ayello since he used to be a Colts beat reporter for “IndyStar.” His intimate knowledge of the team prior to when I joined the beat will be invaluable as Richardson pushes the team into a new era. Plus, it’s just fun to have someone else to talk to as we break down all things Colts.

(Top photo of Anthony Richardson: Mykal McEldowney / USA Today)

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