Colts OTA Journal: Anthony Richardson Back in Command of Offense

Indianapolis Colts OTAs have wrapped up ahead of next week's mandatory minicamp. How did the team look the last two weeks?
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) looks to pass Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, during training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) looks to pass Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, during training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana. / © Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Indianapolis Colts conducted Organized Team Activities over the last two weeks, allowing the team to integrate live, on-field practice scenarios into their preparation for the 2024 season.

The team opened two practices — one each of the last two weeks — to the media for observation before their three-day veteran mandatory minicamp next week. After that, the Colts will break until training camp begins in late July (the schedule should be revealed in the coming weeks).

Here is what Horseshoe Huddle observed on the field over the last two weeks.


— Players such as quarterback Anthony Richardson (shoulder), running backs Jonathan Taylor (ankle, thumb) and Evan Hull (knee), tight ends Jelani Woods (hamstrings) and Drew Ogletree (Commissioner's Exempt List), defensive end Titus Leo (knee), cornerbacks JuJu Brents (wrist, hamstring, quad) and Dallis Flowers (Achilles), and safety Daniel Scott (knee), who missed much or all of the 2023 season, were all participants in practice during OTAs, showing the Colts actually do have some depth when healthy.

— Right tackle Braden Smith (knee), wide receiver Ashton Dulin (knee), cornerback Chris Lammons (left leg), and linebacker Segun Olubi (undisclosed) did not practice during the media portion of OTAs but were in attendance, observing.

— Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had a scary moment last week as he and cornerback Jaylon Jones collided while going for a pass, banging knees before Pittman lay on the ground for several minutes with numerous people surrounding him. He did not return to practice that day, and he did not practice on Thursday. “He’s in a good spot," Steichen told reporters Thursday about Pittman. "We’re just resting him. Like, could he go out there and practice right now? Yeah, probably. We’re just going to be smart with him, though.”

— Taylor (personal) and defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo (personal, wedding) were at practice last week but not this week. Tight end Mo Alie-Cox was also not in attendance, but Steichen was not asked about Alie-Cox's whereabouts.

— It's always valid to wonder where certain players land in the lineup, but there is so much rotating of personnel that occurs during the spring and even early in training camp that it's hard to get a grasp on what the team is thinking. There isn't much definition to the lineups quite yet. This is the time of year to begin investigating who plays well together.

— Overall, the Colts had very good participation in the voluntary portion of the offseason program, with notable players only being absent for brief periods of time for personal reasons. “It’s great," Steichen said about what the team accomplished during OTAs. "At this time, you build the camaraderie. Every year is a new year, but to be out here with the guys flying around, there is some back-and-forth banter, competition, guys talking trash. I love that stuff. It’s good to build that chemistry right now, and that’s where we’re at... You can feel the competition, and you can feel the energy from the guys. That’s how you build a team, off energy and effort, and they’re giving it out here in these OTAs. It’s been really good to see.”


— The most important factor for the Colts right now is the health of Richardson, who has been around for the whole offseason program and has participated in on-field activities throughout. Through the two open practices, Richardson was 8-of-11 during the 11-on-11 portions. His arm doesn't look like it was hampered by last year's shoulder surgery, as there is plenty of velocity and distance on his passes, although Richardson mentioned he's not quite yet back to where he was before the injury. Richardson delivered some big pass plays, including a couple of in-stride chunk plays to Woods and rookie wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, as well as another pair of acrobatic catches made by Mitchell and tight end Kylen Granson. This week, however, the defense really turned up the heat. They were smothering in pass coverage, even in 7-on-7s where Richardson was forced to hold onto the ball or throw it away by the time the whistle blew a couple of times. In a real game scenario, Richardson likely would've taken off and run with it without adequate pass options. The second-year QB isn't exactly in midseason form yet, but his presence and participation at this point of the offseason are critical for his and the offense's success.

— Richardson's new backup, Joe Flacco, made some big pass plays during Thursday's practice, first finding receiver Tyrie Cleveland on a deep crosser before threading a needle to receiver Juwann Winfree on a slant that Winfree was able to sneak through for a long catch-and-run touchdown. In a live game, safety Trevor Denbow likely would've blown Winfree up at the catch point, but they're playing it smart this time of year.

— From what we've seen, rookie undrafted free agent Jason Bean, who is listed as a quarterback/wide receiver, has primarily worked with the quarterbacks during positional drills with some receiver work dabbled in. However, when training camp arrives, there may simply be too many quarterbacks for the number of reps available in practice (Bean is one of five), particularly when the team may want to funnel a significant amount to Richardson to get him as ready as possible for the season. Will the Colts transition Bean into being a receiver full-time when camp begins?

— While Taylor was away, it was quite clear that Trey Sermon is the next man up at running back. In terms of the passing-down back, Hull appeared to get the initial looks ahead of Tyler Goodson.

— With Pittman out of the lineup this week, receiver Josh Downs was heavily involved, catching what must've been double-digit balls throughout 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. His chemistry with Richardson is undeniable and if Pittman were to have to miss time for any reason during the season, prepare to see an incredibly heavy dose of Downs in the passing game.

— Mitchell has made some highlight plays that were put out by the Colts' social media team, but he's done it in practice in front of the media as well. Richardson connected with the rookie during 7-on-7s on a deep right corner route, and again later during 11-on-11s when Mitchell leaped and made an adjustment in the air for the ball. “The explosiveness that he goes off the ball and wins one-on-ones," Steichen said when asked what he's seen in Mitchell so far. "He’s been making a ton of plays out here the last couple days. Really good to see those one-on-one winners. He’s going to bring an element to our offense that we’re really excited about.”

— Woods, who was thought to potentially transition into the Colts' top tight end before his injuries last year, has been impressive during OTAs. He's made a few downfield catches that have either been in traffic, or he's been able to pick up more yardage with his legs. Overall, the tight end group has been pretty healthy, which is terrific news considering the Colts need to figure out what to do with Woods, Granson, Ogletree, Will Mallory, and Alie-Cox. “Shoot, obviously coming off the injury, taking care of his body has been awesome," Steichen said of Woods. "But to see him out here going with the guys, he’s been making a ton of plays. A big-body tight end that can run the vertical routes, run the shallows, run the deep cross. It’s awesome to see. Obviously, he’s a matchup for a defense that they have to be prepared for. So, it’s been good to see.”

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— If either side of the ball "won" OTAs, it was the defense, which routinely came out with energy and physicality. While the first and second-team offenses were able to make some things happen during 11-on-11s, the defense often had answers for what the offense was able to accomplish.

— Two noteworthy plays by the defense were from a pair of young guys entering their first year of playing time. Scott missed his rookie year with an ACL tear but was able to intercept Richardson last week on a ball thrown low and behind Alie-Cox. Likewise, rookie linebacker Jaylon Carlies hopped in front of the intended receiver on a Flacco pass.

— There appears to be no mystery about two of the Colts' top cornerback spots, with Brents and Kenny Moore II consistently lining up with the first-team defense at outside and slot corner, respectively. However, Flowers and Jones will likely duke it out all summer for the other outside corner spot.

— Who's going to be the free safety lining up next to Julian Blackmon at strong safety? Nick Cross might have the early edge on Rodney Thomas II. While the coaches know much more than those of us on the outside looking in, the Colts will likely need to make a decision soon and stick with it. It makes the most sense to be Cross, who has always been somewhat raw and in need of playing time to reach his potential. We've seen Thomas play for two years and take somewhat of a step back in his second season, ultimately leading to his benching late in 2023. If the Colts feed Cross the vast majority of the first-team reps in training camp and let he and Blackmon get used to playing alongside each other, the coaches will know one way or another who's best suited to be their free safety.


— The early group of return specialist has been rookie receiver Anthony Gould, Downs, and Flowers. Gould seems likely to win the kickoff and/or punt return jobs, as Downs is due for an increased role on offense, and Flowers had the Achilles injury last year and may be one of the team's starting corners.

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Jake Arthur


Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for a decade. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) and FantasyPros' expert panel. He has also contributed to multiple NFL Draft guides.