WESTFIELD, Ind. – With the Colts' offense only a few feet from paydirt, Anthony Richardson took the first full-team snap of Tuesday's practice and, after scanning the defense, rifled a pass 15 yards out of the back of the end zone.
The Colts were working on installing some early-down low red zone plays at the beginning of Tuesday's practice, and the last thing you want to see in those situations is a turnover. For Richardson, the hyper-talented No. 4 overall pick, a throwaway was a better outcome than forcing something that might not've been there – especially on first or second down.
"You're down in there tight — if it's not a gotta have it situation, let's be smart and secure the points in that situation," head coach Shane Steichen said. "Defense did a good job of covering up and he threw it away."
Richardson made a similar decision the last time the Colts did some red zone work – during a practice last week, he didn't see anyone open, so he threw an uncatchable pass out of the back of the end zone. It's all part of the decision-making learning curve every rookie quarterback faces – learning what "NFL open" really is, especially in critical situations.
"When it comes to guys being open, it's a tough league," Richardson said. "The windows are definitely a lot smaller. It's just a matter of knowing when to throw it and when not to — not forcing it. Because if it's first and second down in the red zone, on the goal line, and you got a chance for a next play instead of forcing it and trying to be Superman to make something work when there's really nothing there.
"It's a matter of being smart and learning from Gardner (Minshew) and Sam (Ehlinger) and understanding when to give guys the ball and when I can't give it to them."
This is hardly the end-all, be-all of quarterbacking. Over the last four seasons, the players who've thrown the most red zone interceptions on first or second down (five) are regarded as some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL: Josh Allen, Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray.
But the Colts have been pleased with how Richardson has handled the ups and downs and pressure of training camp – whether he's throwing a touchdown or intentionally throwing an incomplete pass.
"The thing we were looking for (early in camp) is, obviously he was stacking the days in the spring and then you get that time off in the summertime, and we didn't want him to take a step back," Steichen said. "I don't think he has done that at all. I think he has continued to improve and grow, and we got to keep doing that."