INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts got a glimpse at the promise, poise and power that convinced them to draft Anthony Richardson fourth overall in April.
Only this time at Lucas Oil Stadium, the former Florida quarterback was wearing a helmet and pads instead of shorts and a T-shirt. And instead of working in front of NFL scouts, he was playing in front of a capacity crowd and facing AFC South champion Jacksonville.
Afterward, Colts coaches and fans seemed to like the first impressions Richardson made in his professional debut. Richardson, meanwhile, was not satisfied with the results.
“We didn’t win, so I didn’t do good enough,” he said following a 31-21 loss that extended Indy's opening day winless streak to 10. “But first game, first experience, felt good just being out there with my teammates. The energy was good. We’ve just got to clean some things up, including myself.”
Statistically speaking, Richardson was solid.
He went 24 of 37 with 223 yards, one touchdown and led the Colts in rushing with 10 carries for 40 yards and another score. He also was sacked four times, three of them from Josh Allen, threw a late interception that led to Jacksonville's game-sealing touchdown and wound up watching the final 58 seconds from the sideline after hurting his left knee on a goal-line run.
Richardson said he actually hurt the leg in the first quarter and new Colts coach Shane Steichen told reporters his starting quarterback should be just fine.
What was clear in Week, 1, though, was just how different Indy's new offense and new era may look.
“He’s a great athlete,” Jacksonville linebacker Travon Walker said. “But there’s always room to improve. He’s definitely a great athlete, showed off his running skills as a quarterback, and I feel like he’s going to be pretty good.”
Richardson also acknowledged he needs to get better in multiples facets.
But at age 21, the third-youngest quarterback to start an NFL opener — and one of the most athletic to ever work out at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indy — is far from a finished product.
The biggest questions about Richardson entering the draft were consistency and accuracy. The results on those points were mixed on Sunday.
His completed 64.8% of his throws, a significant improvement over his college days. The problem: He didn't take many chances showing off the strong arm fans witnessed during his daily warmup routine at training camp.
Part of that was by design.
He targeted mostly running backs and tight ends in the first half before finally taking some downfield chances in the second half. Michael Pittman Jr. caught eight passes for 97 yards and a 39-yard score — the first TD pass of what is expected to be many from the 6-foot-4, 244-pound rookie.
“I thought he managed the game well, thought he did some really good things, really encouraged with his progress,” Steichen said. "Obviously, we had a few quarterback designed runs that he popped. Early on that one drive went down and scored, and it was good to see him get his first touchdown of his career.”
He also celebrated with a spinning spike and with Colts fans seated in the field level suites as well as teammates.
Ultimately, though, Richardson understands what matters most in the NFL is winning and staying healthy.
Richardson may need to work on his sliding technique, which he jokes he's only used seven times to achieve both.
But the opening day reviews of the new face of Indy's franchise were positive.
“It was everything I expected,” second-year Colts receiver Alec Pierce said. “It's good to kind of see that in person because they wear the red jersey to practice and stuff so you kind of miss that, him getting to use his physicality and athleticism. But I was definitely impressed.”
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Michael Marot, The Associated Press