One month ago, the Colts fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their season opener, 31-21. This Sunday, they have an opportunity to avenge the loss as they will face off against the Jaguars again.
However, the Colts' starters are going to look a little bit different this time around.
Last week's victory over the Tennessee Titans proved to be a bittersweet one after it was announced by head coach Shane Steichen that quarterback Anthony Richardson had suffered an AC joint injury in his right shoulder and would 'miss some time'.
That means that Gardner Minshew will start in his place. This will be his first time playing at Everbank Stadium since being traded by the Jaguars to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021.
Knowing the change of quarterbacks will alter their gameplan, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said that the coaching staff tried to prepare for this prior to the start of the season.
"It's something that we have to be aware of in the offseason and I think we try to have an eye toward that as we're putting the offense together, putting the offensive install in for the players in the offseason and training camp," Cooter said. "What you don't want to be doing is just absolutely scrambling right now trying to create a whole new thing.
"We put a bunch of stuff in so that – Anthony (Richardson) is down, Gardner (Minshew II) you're in. Hey, maybe there are a few plays on the call sheet that maybe we're not going to emphasize with Gardner but maybe there are some other ones that, gosh he's really good at these. Hey, let's bring these up – let's get these going. There's things our guys know, things we can adjust to pretty quickly. At the end of the day, we're all out there playing football talking about the changes in scheme and all that stuff – which there are some. Ultimately, we're snapping it, those guys are throwing and catching and progressing through progressions. We're going to try to find a way to win the game. Hopefully, we've structured this thing in a way that we can win the game in a few different ways – whatever is required that week be it from our personnel, their personnel or scheme. All those types of things are things we took into account as we put the thing together and installed it in the offseason."
Luckily, the team will have Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor in tow to help propel the run game.
When the Colts and Jaguars squared off Week 1, the former's rushing attack left much to be desired. They had 65 rushing yards, with 40 of those yards coming from Richardson.
However, since Moss made his season debut in Week 2, they've averaged 147 rushing yards per game. That's the sixth-most in the NFL.
Ahead of their Week 5 game against the Titans, Taylor was activated from the Reserve/PUP list. He only played 10 snaps in his season debut, but that should change as he gets more acclimated with the offense.
"They bring an exciting element," Cooter said. "Zack's been playing extremely well. We're super excited to get JT back, good to see him out there getting a few carries, getting a nice catch in the open field. They're playing good football at that position and that's always a good thing.
"I think coach [Steichen] has already talked about - we weren't gonna go play JT 60 snaps last game. We didn't think that would be wise, but as he comes along - shoot, those two guys both playing good football will be pretty fun to see. We'll see if we can keep that coming."
Defensively, the biggest changes for the Colts are in their secondary. Dallis Flowers and Darrell Baker Jr. were the starting outside cornerbacks in Week 1, but they have since been replaced by rookies JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones.
Brents took over for Baker Jr. in Week 3 and Jones stepped in for Flowers after he tore his Achilles against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.
Relying on rookies to help slow down the Jaguars' passing game, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said that preparation is key if they want to be successful.
"Well, every week there are challenges, right? I mean last week we talked about a couple of their receivers and now this week it will be the same," Bradley said. "This is a really, really good receiving core. They've got multiple ways to hurt you in the passing game. So, it will be a great challenge for them. So, it's a whole new set of issues that come up and it's that preparation part. They've got to study the receivers. I think one thing is studying the scheme and that's what DBs do. They study the scheme, but for corners, it's also the types of releases, the style of routes they run. So, it's that individual time that they need to spend watching the receivers that I think we have to keep building with those younger guys.".
Despite all the personnel changes they have undergone, Steichen said he still expects his team to give it their all this Sunday.
"I just want to continue to see the fight that we've been playing with and the effort we've been playing with," Steichen said. "Obviously, division games are huge just like we had the other day. But to go on the road in Jacksonville – it will be a tough environment, a heck of a challenge for us. Obviously, our second time playing them. Get some time tonight and tomorrow to put the plan together to go get these guys ready."