INDIANAPOLIS – Adjustments must be made when Anthony Richardson once again grabs the keys to the Indianapolis Colts offense.
And that appears sooner, not later. Perhaps Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
Richardson and Ryan Kelly remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but were full participants in Wednesday afternoon’s practice and Richardson was expected to handle his normal first-unit responsibilities. That meant taking most, if not all, repetitions with the starting offense.
Kelly wasn’t wearing a red non-contact jersey assigned to players who practice for the first time after sustaining brain trauma, which was an indication the Pro Bowl center has made significant progress. Richardson and all quarterbacks wear red jerseys, so it’s impossible to infer he’s made similar improvements.
But rookie wide receiver Josh Downs offered a telling update on his training camp roommate.
“I’m glad he’s back,’’ he said.
Richardson and Kelly missed last Sunday’s overtime win at Baltimore after sustaining concussions the previous week at Houston. Richardson made the trip to Baltimore and was heavily involved in sideline discussions with teammates.
“It was huge having him there on the sidelines to see that,’’ Shane Steichen said Wednesday. “He was definitely engaged. He was excited when we were scoring and making plays. And obviously being around the quarterbacks in between series, talking through things and learning that way was huge.’’
With Richardson in the league’s protocol, backup Gardner Minshew II stepped in and helped lead the Colts to a 22-19 overtime upset of the Ravens. He passed for 227 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to running back Zack Moss.
Placekicker Matt Gay was the undeniable catalyst. He converted five field goals and set an NFL record by knocking down four from at least 50 yards. Gay’s 53-yarder with 57 seconds remaining in regulation tied it at 19-all. His 53-yard with 1:09 left in OT ended it.
Despite Minshew doing enough to put Gay in position for his record afternoon and the Colts in position for the road upset, Steichen made it clear Richardson would regain control of the offense once he gained medical clearance.
“Yeah, Anthony is our guy,’’ he said Monday. “He’s our starting quarterback.’’
And that requires another adjustment by the offense. After having to transition from Richardson to Minshew following Richardson’s concussion, it must readjust to the dynamic rookie.
“To some degree, yeah,’’ Zack Moss said. “I don’t think you can say that it’s not. Two different style guys. It definitely shapes up some different type of play calls and different type of ways we do certain things. But the No. 1 thing is everybody out there to execute at a high level and we’re ready to do that.’’
Downs and the other pass catchers – wideouts, tight ends, backs – worked extensively with Richardson and Minshew throughout training camp, so they are aware of each’s strengths and limitations.
And that’s where one adjustment must be made.
“Anthony’s arm is crazy,’’ Downs said. “Crazy strong, so you’ve just got to get used to it. Different ball, that’s the main thing.
“I’m excited. Great player. He’s gonna go out there and make some big plays for us on his legs and his arm.’’
Richardson’s presence in the run game has been on full display in his five quarters of work. He’s the team’s second-leading rusher with 75 yards and three TDs on 13 carries. At Houston, he became the first Colt since Edgerrin James in 1999 to produce two rushing TDs in the first quarter.
However, Richardson suffered a concussion on his second TD against the Texans – a 15-yarder – when he was hit at the goal line and his head bounced against the turf.
While Minshew led the Colts to the overtime win at Baltimore, the offense lacked continuity. It generated two or fewer first downs on 12 of 16 drives. The Colts averaged just 4 yards per play and Minshew averaged only 5.2 yards per attempt – 7.5 is the weekly target – and a paltry 3.8 yards per drop-back, which takes into account lost yardage on sacks. Receivers averaged 8.4 yards per catch, which included Michael Pittman Jr.’s leaping 34-yard reception in overtime.
The passing phase of Richardson’s game also is a work in progress. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per attempt and 9.3 yards per completion.
More from Moss?
Moss insisted he “felt good’’ Monday after rushing 30 times for 122 yards – both career highs – at Baltimore.
“I try to take care of my body every single week,’’ he said. “The No. 1 thing is being available in this job, to put myself in situations like that. Obviously, getting Anthony back is going to be real good. I don’t know how things are going to shake out. I don’t really worry about that. I just try to show up on Sunday and do my job at a high level.’’
Steichen prefers to utilize a backs-by-committee approach with the run game, but the continued absence of Jonathan Taylor has compromised sharing attempts by the backs. Taylor has missed three of the four required games while on PUP. He’s eligible to start practicing next week, but the team undoubtedly will have him practice a week or two before adding him to the game-day rotation.
Until then, it’s Moss. Virtually all the time.
He ranks No. 9 in the league in rushing with 210 yards on 48 carries. In the past two games, Moss has been on the field for 120 of 141 snaps and accounted for all but five rushing attempts and 17 yards by running backs. Trey Sermon took care of the non-Moss production in Baltimore.
For perspective on Moss’ rare heavy workload against the Ravens, consider he became just the fifth Colt since 1999 to handle at least 30 attempts in a game. It was the 21st 30-plus attempt outing.
The other four: Edgerrin James (13 times), Taylor (four), Dominic Rhodes (two) and Frank Gore (1).
Steichen said the Colts will monitor Moss’ carries in the next few games.
“He’s running hard,’’ he said. “And as long as he can take it, he can take it. If needs a blow, we’ll rotate him and we’ll go from there.’’
Sermon and Jake Funk are the only other backs on the active roster. Tyler Goodson is on the practice squad.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.