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Anthony Richardson's ability to avoid sacks comes into focus in Colts' preseason finale

Richardson avoided negative plays over his two quarters of action Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, and his penchant for staying on his feet could prove to be an important aspect of the Colts' offense in 2023. 

PHILADELPHIA – Anthony Richardson's least favorite color might be red.

That's an educated guess based on what he said about the red jersey he has to put on during practice, which stands out amid a sea of blue and white jerseys to signal everyone: Don't hit this guy.

"Honestly that's my least favorite part of practice," Richardson said. "It helps not hitting the ground during practice but it also sucks because of guys saying, 'that's a sack.'

"And I try to prevent stuff like that especially when I move around in the pocket so they can't say it's a sack and I'm just trying to extend plays for the offense and just make it work."

The 6-foot-4, 250-ish pound Richardson took live-contact snaps for the second time in a Colts uniform on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field – and, for the second time this preseason, he didn't take any big sacks.

It's not just about Richardson taking off and scrambling, too. His first instinct is not to scramble: Richardson's ability to feel and avoid the rush while keeping his eyes downfield leads to pass attempts and high-quality, intentional scrambles.

"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."

A back-to-back play sequence in the second quarter illustrated just how important this talent of Richardson's is.

Facing a second-and-11 at the Eagles' 28-yard line, Philadelphia sent a blitz that got to Richardson. But instead of going down for a sack – and, roughly, a seven-yard loss – Richardson avoided the rush and then used his strength to stay on his feet, rifling a pass toward tight end Kylen Granson that wound up falling incomplete.

But even though the pass was incomplete, by not taking a sack, Richardson saved the Colts about seven yards of field position. The Eagles brought pressure on the next play, but Richardson escaped it and decided to take off and run. He gained, instead of lost, five yards.

The difference there was a 41-yard field goal instead of one of at least 50 yards. Lucas Havrisik connected on the field goal, and the Colts scored for the third time in their first four drives.

"Those are the things that we're gonna need," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "Him just being able to do that stuff — we'll get tons of points off that. Some will be three and some will be six. Him being able to run and use his legs is going to be big time. We'll have some of those scramble passes too where he's scrambling around and hurls one 70 yards. It'll come our way too."

The dropbacks Richardson got in the Colts' first and final preseason games were valuable not only for his own development, but for growing the trust his teammates have in him. Part of that is Richardson showing those guys just how long he can extend plays – something that's not always easy to tell during practice when the 2023 No. 4 overall pick has a red non-contact jersey on.

"You're not sure if that's a loss of two or a gain of 10 sometimes," wide receiver Alec Pierce said. "Same with scrambles — you're not sure if it's a sack. It's cool to see him extend plays and really see how it actually works out."

And if it keeps working out where Richardson frequently dodges sacks, it'll keep giving the Colts chances to score once the games start to count come Sept. 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Anthony is just an exceptional athlete and football player," left tackle Bernhard Raimann said. "He makes plays happen and makes our job easier."

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