WESTFIELD, Ind. – While several storylines have captivated fans ahead of the start of training camp, one question tops them all: who will be the Colts' Week 1 starter at quarterback?
"They're all just so dedicated," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "They're fierce. I mean, competition — they're out there and everybody is in good spirits, but they're competing. Like, one throws a deep ball, next one's trying to throw a better deep ball. So that's kind of what you want to see. You want to see that head-to-head competition but everybody still keeps it light because we're all still teammates. I'm excited for all of them. I think it's going to be an open competition and we'll see what happens."
Back in March, the team signed veteran Gardner Minshew, who spent the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles playing in Shane Steichen's offense while he was their offensive coordinator.
In the five games last season, he completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 663 yards. He also threw three touchdowns, three interceptions and rushed for a touchdown.
Competing against him for the starting job will be 2023 first-round pick Anthony Richardson and third-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Taken as the fourth overall pick, Richardson has been under the spotlight as the Colts wait to see how his unique mix of athleticism and arm strength will translate onto the NFL field.
"He's very even-keeled," general manager Chris Ballard said. "He doesn't get too high, he doesn't get too low. Until you get into the fire, you don't really know. And the pressure on that position, we all know — especially when you draft one high, he's automatically stamped as the automatic savior before he's ever played a down. And he and I have had long talks about being able to handle the highs and lows of the position, because you have to. Even the established ones will have down moments and all of a sudden the world says they're done, it's a week-to-week league. That's just what our league is. How you perform week to week is pretty much what people are going to write. And you gotta be able to handle that. You gotta be able to handle the good and the bad and take both in stride."
As for Ehlinger, he has been a positive influence in the locker room and in four games last season, he completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 573 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Though the coaching staff will see how training camp plays out before anointing a starter, many of the team's pass catchers have witnessed firsthand what each quarterback has to offer away from the facility.
Earlier this offseason, the quarterback trio and a group of skill position players took a trip to Miami, where they had the opportunity to build chemistry both on and off the field.
"We got some good work in," Pittman Jr. said. "We were working pretty much from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and then after that, we just hung out. When we finished, we went to the beach and then went to dinner a couple of times."
Also in attendance for that trip was fellow wide receiver Alec Pierce.
Emphasizing the importance of working on timing with the quarterbacks, Pierce said that the trip helped them all adapt to the other's style of play.
"On certain routes, you want to be able to know exactly how they're going to throw the ball," Pierce said. "They want to know exactly how you break out of cuts. Some guys might run a six-step route, but some guys might be six-foot-4 and other guys may be five-foot-11. So, the quarterbacks know that they have to throw the ball a yard or two deeper for a certain guy."
While the Colts will spend the next several weeks evaluating each quarterback, the team's pass catchers are willing to ride into the season with whoever wins the job.
"And I think even after that, they're going to keep pushing," Pittman Jr. said. "Just because one guy is named the starter — I mean, we saw it last year, right? Things definitely change and they change in any position. They're just gonna keep pushing each other throughout the whole season and I think that's going to make everybody better."