On August 12, the Indianapolis Colts kick off the preseason against the Buffalo Bills. It may just be preseason, but it’s a heavyweight start due to the fact that the Bills have been considered a Super Bowl contender for the last few seasons. It will certainly give the Colts a chance to see where they stack up against one of the best teams in the AFC.
The regular season starts on September 10 – no doubt a time for celebratory gatherings all across Indiana – with a matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Young quarterback Trevor Lawrence made great strides last year under coach Doug Pederson, so the Jaguars are not a team to take lightly (as they have been in the past). It’s also an AFC South matchup and it’s important for the Colts to start the season with a win in their own division. Plus, the Jaguars are last year‘s division champs, so the Colts once again get to test themselves against top talent.
When will we see Anthony Richardson?
One of the biggest questions is when will we see No. 4 overall pick quarterback Anthony Richardson? The Florida prospect was considered to be very raw, but he broke records at the combine and is clearly an elite athlete. The Colts took him with the fourth overall pick in the first round because they hope they can build on that potential.
That being said, Richardson was not polished in college – 24 touchdowns against 15 picks in three years – and certainly has a lot to learn to transition his skillset to the NFL game. This means it’s likely that the Colts will start the season with veteran Gardner Minshew – who ironically was a sixth-round pick by the Jaguars back in 2019.
But it’s clear that Richardson is the future for the Colts. They drafted him specifically for new head coach Shane Steichen, who came over from the Philadelphia Eagles. They were in a similar situation with quarterback Jalen Hurts, a tremendous athlete who was considered to be something of a raw prospect coming out of college. But, under Steichen, Hurts developed into one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL and took the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Colts see Hurts’ progression as a potential future for Steichen and Richardson, although it will be a building process to get there.
Will Jonathan Taylor be traded?
One interesting bit of drama from a chaotic off-season is that Colts’ star running back Jonathan Taylor requested a trade. The Colts appear very reluctant to pay him, and the running back market has dried up. Numerous backs have already talked about this, and even had Zoom meetings to discuss what they want to do moving forward. Taylor would like a big contract, but he’s now asking for a trade and may not even be on the team next year.
The Colts have signed former Ravens RB Kenyan Drake to give themselves veteran depth, but that’s still not the same as having Taylor in the backfield. Two seasons ago, the Wisconsin product was a clear star and one of the best running backs in the league. His 2022 season was a bit lackluster, however, as he ran for under 861 yards and four touchdowns, while playing in just 11 games. That could be part of the reason that the Colts are now reluctant to give him the big deal that he is seeking, along with a failed physical.
If the Colts refuse to trade him, then the question becomes whether or not Taylor will sit out the season. Running backs notoriously have short careers, so it is hard to imagine he would skip an entire season during his prime. That said, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell did hold out when he didn’t get the contract he wanted from the Steelers in 2018. Will Taylor follow in the same footsteps, or will he eventually suit up and try to prove that he deserves the contract he wants?
Will the offensive line re-emerge?
Just a few seasons ago, the Colts were considered to have one of the best offensive lines in all of football. Last season, they gave up 60 sacks. There was only one team in the entire NFL that was worse at allowing such a high number of sacks, and that was the Denver Broncos. It was very clear that a lot of the Colts’ offensive struggles started on the line, and this could also have been related to Jonathan Taylor’s reduction in productivity. If the line can get back to what it was before, that would be tremendously helpful both for Taylor – or for Drake and the other running backs – and it could help a young quarterback like Richardson as he learns the NFL game.
How will the Colts do in 2023?
What should be expected in the upcoming season? Las Vegas has the over-under for wins set at 6.5 for the Colts, so it is true that they are not expected to compete for their division. Of course, there are teams every year that produce unexpected results, and that could be the Colts. But Vegas, at least, does not believe that will be very likely.
The reason for this isn’t a lack of talent, however. It’s just that the Colts are entering a new stage. They have a brand new coach, who runs an RPO style that is different than what they did in the past. They have a first-round rookie quarterback. The running back position is in flux. There are a lot of questions that won’t be answered until the games are played.
Ideally, 2023 should be part of an overall building process for the Colts. They need to find out what they have in Richardson to decide whether they’re going to build around him for the future. They also need to see what Shane Steichen can do as a head coach and not a coordinator. Those questions will at least be answered, regardless of the wins and losses. Whatever happens will indicate whether the Colts are on the path to once again being one of the elite teams in the NFL.