Anthony Richardson has never been so lucky to get injured in his life. The Indianapolis Colts’ rookie QB has been operating on pure talent and instincts over the first four starts of his career. He’s tallied seven TDs total — tied with C.J. Stroud the lead among all rookie QBs — in essentially 12 quarters, and the number would be higher if Richardson didn’t leave three of those four outings early with some sort of injury.
Well, the third time was the charm, and now he’s out four to eight weeks with a right shoulder injury he suffered against Tennessee on Sunday. The No. 4 overall pick was removed in the fourth quarter of Week 1 due to knee and ankle soreness, but the play in question led a lot of casual viewers to think the hit against Jacksonville was a concussion.
It didn’t take long for the first official head injury to occur though, as the very next game Richardson’s dome bounced off the turf following a touchdown run, and he was forced to sit out the next game due to concussion protocol. Add in the shoulder injury, and it’s a lot of punishment for barely a quarter of the season.
First-year Colts head coach Shane Steichen came over from Philly with a playbook full of QB runs designed for Jalen Hurts, and while they’ve proven effective with Richardson at the point of attack, the Florida product has considerably fewer reps behind center than the Eagles star who earned a Ph.D. in quarterbacking under Nick Saban and Lincoln Riley before going pro.
The knock on Richardson going into the draft was a lack of experience, and understanding of the nuances of QB play. It didn’t help that Gator coach Billy Napier might not have been the best tutor, but the returns that Steichen has been able to get out of his new toy are extremely promising, and eons ahead of where I thought this project would be.
The difference between the Colts QB and other dual-threats who’ve been durable in recent seasons is they know they’re not Superman. Even Josh Allen, who’s built like the defensive end of the same name, has had to make a concerted effort to protect his body from the repeated punishment of taking on linebackers in the open field.
Richardson will have to learn that same fight or slide approach, or be prepared to go the way of Cam Newton in a vastly shorter amount of NFL starts. Steichen similarly has to coach his quarterback on the methods of self-preservation, as well as how to play the position.
Everyone thinks Hurts is a gimmick because of the one-yard scrums, but the leaps he’s made in the pocket from his rookie year to now his fourth season are why the Eagles can have A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith on the same team, and not have wide receiver drama engulf the sidelines every other week.
For Colts fans, worried about the franchise repeating the same mistakes that led Andrew Luck to retire early, the issue isn’t a sieve-like offensive line. Indy boasts a top-seven rushing attack despite running back Jonathan Taylor missing the first month with a contract dispute/injury, and that leads me to believe the big uglies up front won’t be at fault this time around.
Obviously, things could change, but All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson seems to be his old self again after a couple of down seasons, and the rest of Indy’s line also is playing well. Everyone’s favorite backup QB, Gardner Minshew, is completing 68 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception yet in plenty of relief duty, and he’ll get at least another month to keep that streak alive. Remember, he was the backup in Philly with Steichen for the past two years, and theoretically knows the system.
The Colts, Anthony Richardson, and Shane Steichen are lucky the injury isn’t worse, and frankly should be content allowing him to recuperate without risking further abuse, or another concussion. I know it sucks for the people of Naptown who were thoroughly enjoying watching the heir apparent, but it might not be a bad thing for the young man to see how someone with a quarter of his physical talent runs an NFL offense for a large portion of the season.
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