The vibe inside the Colts' locker room this week was centered around confidence, but also a let's-get-this-thing-going sort of anticipation.
It's been seven months since Shane Steichen walked through the doors of the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. It's been four and a half months since Anthony Richardson flew from Kansas City to Indianapolis as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. And that means: It's been a long, long time of wondering what this all might look like.
On Sunday, when the Colts kick off against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium, we – the public – will finally see it.
"We're at that point of the year now where it's enough about talking," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "It's enough about projecting and assuming. You are who you put on tape."
But players like Franklin, the four-time team captain and starting linebacker, have already seen it.
The Colts' defense has practiced against Richardson and the offense for weeks. They're among the select few who actually have an idea of what Steichen has dialed up for the offense in 2023. What it won't be: The offense the Colts ran during the preseason, which was intentionally bland. Why would Steichen give away answers to the test before it starts?
"There's not a lot of scheme that goes into preseason," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "They're running their basic, vanilla offense. But it's gonna be pretty cool to see coach Steichen and the coaching staff, their first game plan going into Week 1."
Trevor Lawrence possesses a certain trait the Colts believe Richardson does – or, at worst, ultimately will – possess.
He doesn't get sacked much.
Lawrence was sacked 27 times in 2022, 18th-most among regular starting quarterbacks, but that doesn't tell the full story. More telling is this: Lawrence sacked 14.5 percent of the time he was pressured (27 sacks in 196 dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus), good for the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Justin Herbert.
"He's really good with his feet," Buckner said. "He's really elusive, can dodge the rush, and he's always looking downfield to make a play."
The Colts sacked Lawrence four times in their Week 6 win over the Jaguars last season, a game which was more of an anomaly for the 2021 No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars went 1-3 in games in which Lawrence was sacked four or more times; they were 8-5 otherwise.
And Lawrence's ability to avoid sacks paid off for the Jaguars last season in a big way – Jacksonville scored on 17 percent of their drives on which Lawrence was pressured but not sacked, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.
"You got him dead to rights and make you miss, little things like that," Buckner said, "definitely it's a little defeating for a pass rush."
Here's the thing with that quote: It wasn't about Lawrence.
It was about Richardson.
"That was one of the big things I noticed with him when he came in is his pocket presence," Buckner said.
Richardson was not sacked on any of the eight preseason dropbacks on which he was pressured, and on those plays showed a good feel for side-stepping the pass rush while keeping his eyes downfield. His first instinct is not to run, but to try to get the ball to one his teammates. Richardson, of course, can run – it's just not a crutch for him when he feels pressure.
"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."