Colts Coach Wants Anthony Richardson to Play Smart to Avoid Injuries

You guys keep the questions coming, even when there is legitimately nothing going on (outside of a TikTok flareup or two) …

From Timmay (@Timmaaayy86): What does Anthony Richardson need to do to stay healthy?

From Jason Hulsman (@HulsmanJason): How are the Colts looking with AR under center this year?

Timmay and Jason, first of all, the health piece of it is important because, even though Richardson’s built like a battleship, he simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He had injuries in high school. He had injuries at Florida, including hamstring and knee issues which blew up his redshirt freshman season—he had knee surgery in December 2021—and he sustained a concussion during his third year (and second football season) as a Gator. Last year, of course, another concussion preceded his season-ending shoulder injury.

At some point, as hard as this is to say, these things can’t be called a coincidence. And it is something that I brought up to Indianapolis Colts coach Shane Steichen last month. Steichen told me, as he sees it, the Colts have to be careful, and Richardson has to be, too.

“I mean, it’s just being smart on when to get down,” Steichen said. “It’s a happy medium. There’s a time and a place where it’s fourth down and you gotta have it and the game’s on the line, where you gotta go get it. But if it’s first-and-10 and you scramble and you can make it second-and-4 and take a big hit or make it second-and-6 and get down, Hey, let’s make it second-and-6.”

If Richardson and the Colts can strike that happy medium, there’s limitless potential for what the quarterback can do and, with Steichen and his staff in place, I’m gonna trust that the situation around him is going to keep getting better.

Having an entrenched left tackle—rising third-year man Bernhard Raimann (Austria’s own!)—should make all the difference for a line that’s always had good players and is getting deeper. And with Michael Pittman Jr. signed long-term, and Alec Pierce and Josh Downs having really strong offseasons, it looks like there are a lot of nice pieces around the Colts’ top guy at the position.

Arrow’s pointing up in Indy (with the problem being that it certainly is in Houston, too).

From Chris Saiz (@ChrisSaiz98): What are your expectations for the Chargers record-wise?

Chris, I think the Los Angeles Chargers are going to land in the nine- to 11-win range. And I know a lot of folks are caught up in what they did at receiver. So let’s dive into that with some thoughts …

• The team had to do something to turn around its salary cap, and there were four contracts that had been leveraged, and were creating problems: Those assigned to receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Now, if you just look at the makeup of Jim Harbaugh’s teams at Stanford, San Francisco and Michigan, where would you think the team would choose to sacrifice? Though the team did offer Allen a pay cut, it’s no surprise that the receivers are gone, and the pass rushers remain.

• Playing behind Allen and Williams the past two years, Joshua Palmer, when healthy, has been awfully productive. On a per game basis during that time and  over a 17-game season, his baseline is 72 catches for 883 yards. Quentin Johnston, the team’s first-round pick in 2023, had 38 catches for 432 yards, but has talent. And rookie Ladd McConkey was drafted near the top of the second round, so there’s talent at the position.

• The offensive line should be better—after getting a premier talent at right tackle in No. 5 pick Joe Alt, they’ll start three homegrown first-round picks— and that’ll fuel a Harbaugh–Greg Roman run game that, on paper, will make things easier on the receivers.

Assuming the Chargers run the ball like Harbaugh’s teams always have in the past, they should be able to get more from Justin Herbert, simply by asking less of him.

Bottom line: The talent on hand is good enough for the team to be pretty good under the new regime. I don’t think they’ll displace the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but this year should show steps in that direction, and maybe a playoff berth along the way, given the promise of a physical team that’ll play with a real identity.

From Matt Ramas (@matt_ramas): How soon do you think we’ll see an 18-game schedule in the NFL?

Matt, that the NFL has been public about its intentions tells me that the hope is to get this one off the ground soon. The next on-paper checkpoint for the league and the networks would be the opt-out the NFL has in the broadcast contracts, which can be exercised after the 2029 season. But it’s hard to believe the NFL isn’t going to be working the NFLPA to get this done sooner. Maybe a lot sooner.

(And, by the way, if I’m the union, I’m not doing it without major concessions, specifically wins that’ll help players get paid sooner and more freely, both by lowering the term of service needed to get to free agency, and by, perhaps, changing the tag rules.)

From Jack (@jackm79): What is the highest level of football you played?

High school. My last game was December of my senior year, at 17 years old. And, yes, I know what I don’t know, which is why I go to the folks I cover for so much of the X’s-and-O’s stuff. In fact, I’d say growing up playing gave me a pretty good handle on the difference between what I learned as a kid, and how far past that NFL players and coaches are.

From Official Ohio State DG (@DylanEveryday): Over/under total wins for 2024 Ohio State 14.5 …

Love the optimism. I’m with you. Obviously, the dream is 16–0—Big Ten title game win, playoff bye, and three CFP wins. But your scenario would allow for a regular-season hiccup, and then a recovery to get to the title game, with winning that one swinging the number one way or the other.

Team is stacked. They woke up the giant.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson

Wilson will enter training camp as the starting quarterback for the Steelers. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From David Kromelow (@dkrom5): How long (or short) do you think Russell Wilson’s leash is in Pittsburgh?

David, here’s my sense of the whole thing—Wilson will enter camp as the starter, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ belief would be that what’s best for him, and ostensibly the team, is for him to have to fight for the job. In other words, keeping Wilson out of his comfort zone should help them get the best out of him in the summer, and the best from him in the fall.

That said, without the benefit of full, padded practices, the staff is reserving any type of sweeping judgment on Wilson or Justin Fields. Should be a fun summer to visit Latrobe, Pa.

From Gerry Levine (@gerrylev): Teams are paying QBs $50-plus million, which clearly takes away from the rest of the roster. The only way this works is if the QB is capable of overcoming this shortcoming and only one guy has proven he can. How long can this last?

Gerry, that’s the $50 million question that confronts teams as they get closer to paying young quarterbacks. And if you look at the last dozen Super Bowl champions, the stark reality of that dilemma is very clear. You have Tom Brady (four), Patrick Mahomes (three), Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford and four titles won by teams with quarterbacks on rookie contracts (one of Mahomes’s three titles is in that number).

The question from there becomes where the line can be drawn, on how good a quarterback has to be to win it all while on a top-of-the-market contract.

It’s hard to ascertain exactly where that line is, but the fortunes of the Baltimore Ravens (Lamar Jackson), Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow), Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert), Philadelphia Eagles (Jalen Hurts) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Trevor Lawrence) should give us all good context over the next half-decade or so. And, of course, the Miami Dolphins (Tua Tagovailoa) and Green Bay Packers (Jordan Love) could add to it soon.

What I’d say definitively is if you’re going to pay your quarterback in that neighborhood, you need to know he’ll be able to make up for deficiencies on the roster, whether it means winning shootouts (if you’re saving that money on defense), getting the ball out faster (if you’re not spending on linemen) or throwing into smaller windows and needing to generate more methodical drives (saving on receivers), or a combination of all of those things.

From Ronnie (@Tray4o): What’s your initial thoughts on the in-season Hard Knocks of the AFC North this upcoming season?

Ronnie, I think it’s getting harder and harder for HBO and NFL Films to create truly unique content, with everything we get now, both on the national level, and also with what teams produce through their own in-house media teams. So I’m skeptical on any of this stuff working anymore to the level that it used to.

The idea of doing a whole division is fun, though. And should help the producers get fresh material on a week-to-week basis.

From JJ McCARTHY SZN (@TheBoyDylan54): What percent chance you give J.J. McCarthy of starting Week 1?

I’d say less than 10%.

And that’s not any affront to McCarthy, who, by all accounts, had a fine spring in Minnesota.

More so, it’s about Kevin O’Connell and Sam Darnold. The former put together a detailed, step-by-step development plan for McCarthy that’ll require the quarterback to hit certain milestones before the team presses him into real action. The latter had a really good spring, too, delivering on how the Minnesota Vikings projected him, as Darnold came from a year in Kyle Shanahan’s system with the San Francisco 49ers.

And if you want to see what Minnesota sees in Darnold, go watch the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ rout of the Niners on Christmas night. Yes, it was garbage time. But what I saw, and what I know Minnesota saw, was a talented kid who came into the league raw suddenly playing faster and with much better rhythm than we’d seen in the past.

Now, I’m not saying Darnold is going to morph into Joe Montana or anything like that. But I do think he’ll do enough to keep the bar high for McCarthy to get on the field.

From Ron Fortier (@RonFortier): Why do you only get an ice cube or two in your drink in Europe? They melt within the first two minutes of the drink being delivered to your table. Alternatively, will Aiyuk be traded before or in season?

San Francisco 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk

San Francisco and Aiyuk are trying to negotiate an extension for the receiver. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

From Joey Bag of Donuts (@joeybagovdonuts): Why would the 49ers trade Aiyuk if they’re trying to win now?

Ron, that’s a great question on the ice cubes, and, yes, I have noticed that there’s way more lukewarm soda and beer served in Europe than there is on this side of the Atlantic. As for Brandon Aiyuk, as I wrote last week, I don’t think the Niners are going to trade him before the season.

Why wouldn’t they? Well, the way I look at it, you’ll have fewer suitors now than you would after the year, if you try to tag-and-trade him then, with rosters across the NFL set, and both cap and cash budgets spent. And even though it does help to trade a guy while he’s still got some term left on his deal, rather than trading someone off a tag, I think the late juncture of such a trade in this case would balance those scales a bit.

The other thing is that the Niners are squarely in a championship window. If the trade were to happen in April, then San Francisco could use the draft capital to get someone who’d help the team win now. Being where they are means the Niners would likely be dealing for draft picks that would only do them good for 2025 and beyond. So, as I see it, if you wanted Aiyuk, then you’d really have to make it worth their while.

And that, of course, is before you even get to the fact that the Niners really do want to keep the guy, which has been reflected in negotiations, despite what you might see on TikTok. The price point is the issue, of course. But for now, I’d say a Deebo Samuel trade would be more likely than an Aiyuk trade.

From Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25): What ends up happening with this Jets–Haason Reddick situation? Do they give him the bag similar to Danielle Hunter (2-year $49M) OR do they just hand him an incentive package to get him in camp and figure things out next offseason?

Paul, I’d guess they’ll put together an incentive package as a Band-Aid, and tie that to sacks and playing time. If Hunter’s contract is the bar for an extension, with Reddick turning 30 in September, I can’t imagine it’d be anything more than that.

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