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Colts-Bills preview: Anthony Richardson's preseason debut, plus what to watch at every position on Saturday

Richardson will start on Saturday at Highmark Stadium in our first look at the 2023 Colts. Here's something to watch for from every position group this weekend. 


WESTFIELD, Ind. – Emptying the notebook with a position-by-position look at what to watch for as the Colts head to Buffalo for Saturday's preseason curtain-lifter against the Bills at Highmark Stadium:

Quarterbacks: Anthony Richardson will start and play roughly a quarter with the Colts' first-team offense, head coach Shane Steichen said Thursday. The Colts have seen Richardson respond well to mistakes as well as good days throughout training camp, but how he operates the offense and plays in true live-game action will be telling in the team's evaluation of the 2023 No. 4 overall pick. ... Gardner Minshew will follow Richardson at quarterback on Saturday. He's been every bit as advertised both on the field as a quarterback and off the field as a teammate. ... Sam Ehlinger has made a couple of standout throws during camp, including a deep sideline ball to undrafted rookie wide receiver Kody Case this week.

Running backs: With Jonathan Taylor on PUP, Zack Moss working back from an arm injury and Deon Jackson nursing a quad, rookie Evan Hull has a tremendous opportunity to showcase some of the good things he's shown during training camp with the ball in his hands. Hull was an accomplished pass-catcher in college at Northwestern but has shown some burst on run plays over the last few weeks.

Wide receivers: Keep an eye on if Richardson is able to connect with Alec Pierce on Saturday. The two linked up for a nice back-shoulder play during Thursday's practice, something Richardson said he's been working on with the second-year receiver. ... Rookie Josh Downs has been a favorite target of both Richardson and Minshew during camp because, as Minshew put it, he's frequently getting open. "As long as he keeps doing that, we are going to try and keep finding him," Minshew said. ... Third-year wideout Mike Strachan has made a number of standout plays during camp.

Tight ends: Several tight ends did not practice this week, including Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox, Drew Ogletree and Will Mallory. We'll see if any of those guys get on the field Saturday. ... With so many tight ends potentially out, expect to see plenty of Kylen Granson early on, then a mix of guys like Pharaoh Brown, Nick Eubanks, Michael Jacobson and Ricky Seals-Jones; the latter three joined the Colts during training camp.

Offensive line: The Colts practiced with the same five starting offensive linemen – Bernhard Raimann, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Will Fries and Braden Smith – until Thursday's practice, which Smith (leg) missed. If Smith can't play Saturday expect to see fourth-round rookie Blake Freeland at right tackle.

Defensive line: While DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart are entrenched as one of the NFL's top interior D-line duos, the competition behind them has been strong throughout camp. Eric Johnson II, McTelvin Agim, Taven Bryan and Adetomiwa Adebawore have all flashed at times. ... We'll see if Tyquan Lewis, who was removed from the PUP list on Tuesday, plays on Saturday, but his presence on the field over the last two practices has been felt. ... The Colts hope to have an eight-deep defensive line rotation, so keep an eye on who flashes once the second and third units get on the field.

Linebackers: Whether or not Shaquille Leonard plays, the All-Pro linebacker has made encouraging progress throughout training camp (UPDATE: Leonard will play on Saturday). Last weekend he began participating in full-team, full-padded portions of practice. ... The Colts have rotated Grant Stuard, JoJo Domann and Segun Olubi up to the first-team defense during practice as they look to build depth behind Leonard, Zaire Franklin and EJ Speed.

Cornerbacks: Second-round pick JuJu Brents participated in his first practice with the Colts on Sunday and has made a few plays over the last week. ... Darrell Baker Jr. has flashed with a handful of pass break-ups in practice throughout camp, while seventh-round pick Jaylon Jones has swatted away a few passes lately. Dallis Flowers had a pass break-up in the end zone during Thursday's practice. ... Fifth-round pick Darius Rush also returned to practice recently after a shoulder injury held him out for a stretch. ... Veteran Kenny Moore II has had an impressive training camp but has missed the last few practices with an ankle issue.

Safeties: Expect to see plenty of 2022 third-round pick Nick Cross, who's played both strong safety and free safety in place of Julian Blackmon (hamstring) and Rodney Thomas II (toe) at times during camp. The Colts have also got Cross some work at slot corner.

Special teams: The Colts are set with kicker Matt Gay, punter Rigoberto Sanchez and long snapper Luke Rhodes, but have given a handful of players looks at punt returner during camp. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie is listed atop the unofficial depth chart, followed by Downs.

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