Colts see energy, growth from Richardson

May 1—INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Bob Cooter likes to tell a good story.

Get the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator really interested in a topic, and he's likely to ramble on for minutes in a style uniquely his own.

So it was Wednesday afternoon at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center when Cooter was asked about the mental game for second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson.

He described a play last season that included a jet motion for wide receiver Josh Downs on which the rookie was far from the primary target.

But Richardson instinctively found Downs for a decent gain when the defense reacted unexpectedly in the moment.

"Anthony's eyes weren't (on Downs) for the read, but he just sort of felt where the defense was and where they weren't — which is more important — and just spit it out to Josh and got a nice 12-yard gain," Cooter recalled. "We didn't coach that on the board. We didn't draw Josh Downs up and circle him and say, 'Make sure they cover him when he goes out to the flat.'

"That's just understanding what you're seeing in front of you, what the defense is doing. Anthony has done a nice job diving into sort of learning the offense, once again at a deep level."

Small moments like that helped build the trust the coaching staff has in a quarterback who played just four games in 2023.

But Richardson is far from resting on his laurels.

His teammates describe a player who has brought renewed energy to offseason workouts and has left no stone unturned in an effort to improve for Year 2.

After a shoulder injury wiped out most of his rookie season, Richardson is almost the forgotten member of his draft class. Houston's C.J. Stroud and Tennessee's Will Levis had far more time to fire up their respective fan bases on the field.

The Colts believe Richardson will quickly make up for lost time this fall.

"He's everything you want in a quarterback," three-time first-team All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson said. "Seeing him work around the building and working in silence and then going out there and being a leader — he's been very on the details, and he's looking good."

It helps Indianapolis returns nearly the full complement of weapons and protection around Richardson. Only backup running back Zack Moss, wide receiver/kick returner Isaiah McKenzie and veteran backup quarterback Gardner Minshew are not back from last year's offense.

But general manager Chris Ballard made a point of adding to that group in the draft.

The most notable addition is former Texas wide receiver Addonai Mitchell — a second-round draft pick expected to add immediate explosion to the deep passing game.

The Colts finished 10th in scoring at 23.3 points per game last year with Minshew making 13 starts.

But the passing game ranked 20th with 3,666 yards, and Indianapolis was 18th with a net average of 6 yards per attempt.

"This year we're trying to build even more," second-year wide receiver Josh Downs said. "This year we brought back pretty much everybody on the offense and on the defense. We just added AD Mitchell and a bunch of other good players.

"We're striving for the best. AR is excited, and I think we're going to be explosive."

Downs said that excitement has materialized in several behind-the-scenes ways. Richardson appears more comfortable to let his personality show this spring, joking with teammates and taking command in meetings.

It's allowing his teammates to get to know the quarterback on a deeper level, and the Colts believe it will eventually pay dividends on the field.

"I'm really seeing him grow and mature," Dpwns said. "I'm getting closer to him each and every day. Everybody is. I see a real competitor and a real gamer."