1. Anthony Richardson had a standout throw.
Facing a second and four on the Philadelphia Eagles' 44-yard line midway through the second quarter, Richardson surveyed the defense and – with a green light from head coach Shane Steichen – checked into a different play.
The Colts hadn't built in many checks into their preseason offense, preferring to just line up and play fast – like most other teams in the NFL do in the preseason. But Steichen gave Richardson the option to check into a different play if he saw a specific pressure coming from the Eagles, which the rookie quarterback identified pre-snap.
Richardson took a shotgun snap and dropped back to pass. He looked to his left and picked up tight end Kylen Granson, who was running a corner route.
Richardson zipped a perfectly-layered pass over the head of a defender on running back Evan Hull, who ran to the flat, and within Granson's catch radius – but out of reach linebacker Ben VanSumeren, who was covering Granson.
Granson came down with the catch along the sideline for a gain of 17 yards.
"That was a great throw," Steichen said. "The linebacker's trying to undercut it, he put it only where Granson could catch it. It was a heck of a throw standing right there."
Those are throws Richardson can make not just because of his arm strength, but because of the growing connection he's built with his pass-catchers over the last few weeks. Granson smartly didn't flatten off his route, instead taking it upfield and allowing Richardson to fire it over the defender in the flat and away from the linebacker on him.
"You can just feel it," Granson said. "It's almost like an innate feeling going in — like you can feel the confidence from your side and his side, because you know where the ball is going to be and he knows where you're going to be."
2. There's more to Richardson's final stats than meets the eye.
Richardson completed six of 17 passes for 78 yards and rushed five times for 38 yards while taking every offensive snap over the first two quarters Thursday night. But, as Steichen said: "Sometimes your stats always don't tell the true story."
Here's why. There was the "great throw" to Granson, as we already dove into here. He ripped a few throws on play-action to wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and tight end Drew Ogletree, too. There were things to clean up, Steichen said, but overall the Colts' head coach thought his quarterback was "solid" against the Eagles.
Richardson's mobility and poise in the pocket shined, too, with the 6-foot-4, 250 pound quarterback avoiding drive-killing sacks.
And after the game, Richardson emphasized his outside-the-pocket mentality is to keep his eyes downfield and only take off and scramble if there's a clear running lane ahead of him. That approach showed up on a first-and-10 play late in the first quarter.
An upfield rush off the edge by Johnson forced Richardson to quickly step up in the pocket. But as Richardson moved forward, he noticed VanSumeren, the linebacker, about seven yards beyond the line of scrimmage and right in the path where he would've ran. So instead of taking off for what might've been a three or four-yard gain, Richardson zipped a pass to Granson, who hauled it in for an eight-yard gain.
"I always try to keep my eyes downfield unless I see a wide-open lane," Richardson said. "If there's an opportunity to give somebody the ball — it's their job to get the ball, I just gotta deliver it. If I have the opportunity to give them the ball, I'm going to take that over running it myself. But if I see a lane, I'm going to try to take it and get yards for my team."
Plays like that throw to Granson, with the kind of mentality Richardson possesses, are why it's unfair to pigeonhole into being a labeled "running quarterback." Yes, he can run. But it's not always his first option.
3. Difficult decisions loom at tight end.
Granson (two catches, 25 yards), Drew Ogletree (one catch, 23 yards), Will Mallory (two catches, 43 yards) and Pharaoh Brown (one catch, 16 yards) all made plays in the passing game Thursday night. Mo Alie-Cox, along with Ogletree, made his 2023 preseason debut, playing eight snaps.
"It's a very versatile room," Granson said. "… We got a different tool for each different problem."
How the Colts sort through that toolbox in the next few days, then, will be one of the biggest questions to be answered with Tuesday's roster cut from 90 to 53 players. Ogletree, Alie-Cox, Mallory and 2022 third-round pick Jelani Woods all missed practices during training camp, but have also all put good things on tape either prior to 2023, in 2023 or both.
"That's going to be really hard on us, it's going to be really hard on Chris (Ballard) and his staff," Steichen said. "We gotta go look at the tape and evaluate it and make sure we're making the right decision there."
View highlights from the Colts versus Philadelphia Eagles preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 24.
4. Other quick notes on the offense.
- With Will Fries out, Carter O'Donnell – the Canadian who's been on the Colts' practice squad the last two seasons – got the start at right guard. Arlington Hambright, a fellow 2022 practice squad guy, started at right guard against the Bears last weekend; he played left tackle in the second half of Thursday's game.
- With Ryan Kelly held out, Danny Pinter started Thursday's game at center. He sustained an ankle injury early in the third quarter and was carted off the field.
- Shoutout to rookie tackle Blake Freeland, whose full-on sprint prevented a Sam Ehlinger interception from turning into a pick-six in the fourth quarter. He looked fast – and not just fast for a 302-pound guy.
- There was a nearly even split of snaps with the first-team offense between running backs Evan Hull (17) and Deon Jackson (16). In the second half, Jake Funk played 14 snaps, Kenyan Drake played 13 and Jason Huntley took the remaining eight.
- Gardner Minshew took over in the third quarter and completed nine of 11 passes for 102 yards with a touchdown. In three preseason games, Minshew completed 87.5 percent of his passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 124.1.
5. Quick notes on the defense.
- The Colts' first-team defense did what you'd expect to the Eagles' reserves in the first half, especially on the ground. The Eagles rushed 14 times for 27 yards (1.9 yards/attempt), with linebackers Zaire Franklin and EJ Speed, cornerback Kenny Moore II and safety Julian Blackmon all blowing up run plays.
- Dallis Flowers and Darrell Baker Jr. started at outside cornerback for the third consecutive game. Both Flowers and Baker recorded two pass break-ups apiece
- Rookie cornerbacks JuJu Brents and Darius Rush did not play on Thursday.
- Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner played 12 snaps, six of which were against the pass. He recorded two hurries on those six dropbacks.
- Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo notched a sack when he dropped Eagles rookie quarterback Tanner McKee for a loss of seven yards early in the second quarter.
The Indianapolis Colts arrive at Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles for their final preseason game of 2023.