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Colts fans, take a deep breath. We’ve made it to football season.
After all of the drama of the offseason, and the misery that was last year, the Colts are preparing to play their first preseason game against the Bills this weekend. They have a brand new quarterback, a new coach, and a palpable sense of optimism, even with Jonathan Taylor and his contract dispute muddying the waters.
The Colts aren’t expected to win a lot of games this year, but that’s not the point. This season is all about showing signs of progress and developing Anthony Richardson. So instead of going through the exercise of trying to determine the Colts record, I’m going to take a swing at making some other predictions.
Jonathan Taylor Will Play For The Colts
This is obviously a situation that is still in flux. The Colts could announce tomorrow that they are trading him; they could also announce that he is being removed from the active/PUP list and begin practicing. Truly, it’s hard to know when the drama will end. However, Taylor really doesn’t have a lot of leverage here. With a year left on his deal, he can’t sit games, or he risks losing his entire salary for 2023. If the Colts put him on the NIL list, he risks his contract not tolling, putting him right back where he was to begin with. His best bet is to play, and play well. Come next season, he can refuse to sign the franchise tag, which would put him in a similar boat to Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. It’s not ideal, especially for Taylor, but it might be his only option.
Anthony Richardson Will Start All 17 Games
The Colts have had Richardson and veteran QB Gardner Minshew split reps during training camp, and right now have given no indication on who will be under center in Week 1. Minshew was brought in to give the inexperienced Richardson time to develop, but reports from camp show that, at least from the mental side of things, he is picking things up quickly. As fun as a Gardner Minshew revenge games against the Jaguars in Week 1 would be, I think Richardson will ultimately be named the starter. He is too talented to keep off the field, and it seems like he can handle the pressure. The only way he will grow is if he gets playing time; I think he’ll get 17 full games worth of it this year.
Richardson Will Be A Contender For Rookie Of The Year, BUT He Won’t Win
Speaking of Anthony Richardson, I think he is going to have a better year than anticipated. Yes, there will be struggles, but his ability as a runner will mask his inconsistencies in the passing game. Even in the passing game, I think he will be effective. Head coach Shane Steichen figures to run an offense that will use RPO’s and play fakes heavily, and defenses will have to respect Richardson as a ball carrier. That will open plenty of throwing lanes for him to take advantage of, especially if Taylor does end up playing. However, while I do think Richardson will receive some votes for the award, I don’t think he will win it. Instead, I think the honor will go to 1st-overall selection Bryce Young of the Carolina Panthers. Despite questions about Young’s durability and size, he still is the most pro-ready QB of the three taken in the first four picks of the draft.
The Colts Won’t Have a 1,000 Yard Receiver
While I think Michael Pittman Jr is a very good wideout, and Alec Pierce has lots of promise, the Colts receiving room is unproven overall. Josh Downs is an exciting prospect, but he’s also a rookie, and may not be ready to contribute right away. The Colts also brought in Breshad Perriman and Isaiah McKenzie in free agency, but neither of them are players that give defenses fits. As mentioned previously, I think the Colts will utilize a lot of play fakes and RPO’s where Richardson is a threat to run. This will reduce the number of potential catches players like Pittman or Pierce would get. I also think the tight end group will eat up a lot of completions as well. Richardson could be further along than predicted, and even if he isn’t, his ability to throw deep could lead to this prediction being wrong, but I think the Colts will finish without a 1,000 yard receiver for the 2nd year in a row.
Shaquille Leonard Will Make The Pro Bowl
This is not a prediction I would have made before training camp got underway. Heading into camp, there was legitimate concern over Leonard and if he would even play again, let alone at the level that Colts fans have come to expect. Instead, the 4-time All-Pro, who has struggled with injuries the past few seasons, has been a full participant at camp. He recently was cleared for contact and was on the field for the 11-on-11 period over the past weekend. Leonard doesn’t seem to be limited at all by his back and has expressed lots of optimism about his availability this upcoming year. I’m not quite ready to say he will return to All-Pro form, at least not yet, but I do think he will make the Pro Bowl. Of course, Leonard has been proving doubters wrong his whole career, so this may be a prediction I come to regret.
During Monday’s edition of The Ride With JMV, John spoke to Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star, to get his thoughts on the Colts and Jonathan Taylor, how Leonard has looked so far, and more! Listen to that conversation and others below, and tune into The Ride With JMV weekdays from 3-6pm on 93.5/107.5 The Fan!