Even in a loss, Colts Week 1 performance builds expectations for the 2023 season

The Indianapolis Colts lost a competitive game in Week 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Indy’s performance has given the team new expectations.
Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Week 1 is in the books and the Indianapolis Colts have completed the dubious feat of not winning their season opener for an entire decade now. The last time Indianapolis won their opener was in 2013 when they defeated the (then) Oakland Raiders 21-17 at Lucas Oil Stadium. While the continued opening day losses (and tie) sting, the Colts did surprise the fanbase a bit as they seemed to be a bit ahead of schedule in some aspects and lacking in others.

While it showed a 10-point loss on the scoreboard, it was a closer game than that and they could have put them away if not for the late interception from Anthony Richardson. Let’s review some of Week 1 and look ahead to the expectations for Indianapolis after watching Week 1.

Recapping preseason predictions for Colts

The pundits and analysts have not been kind to Indianapolis this season when making the always debated preseason predictions. Some local writers had them winning as little as two games this season and others seemed to settle with them around 7-8 wins. While national media seemed a little bit higher on them with some even making them a dark horse pick to make the playoffs due to the weakness of the division.

Many were concerned about the youth on the roster, the new coaching staff and a new rookie quarterback taking the helm. No one had them winning more than nine games from what was discussed in the early season predictions.However, Indy seems to be ahead of schedule, especially offensively.

Colts offense was promising in Week 1

Let’s start with the good first. Anthony Richardson and Michael Pittman Jr. shined during the game. For a rookie debut, Richardson was far from perfect, but you saw the reasons he was so coveted by this Colts staff when they drafted him with the fourth-overall pick in April’s draft. He was 24-of-37 for 223 yards with two total touchdowns (one rushing and one throwing) and had a QBR of 84. While he did throw a pick late in the game on a questionable throw, he showed poise, confidence and leadership throughout the game.

It appears that Richardson will use Pittman as his security blanket this upcoming season as Pittman finished with a typical day of 8 catches for 97 yards and a score. Pittman is in a contract year, so expect him to continue to step up all season long. Kylen Granson led the tight ends with four catches for 39 yards.

Now, the bad part of Week 1 was the absence of a running game. The running back by committee was putrid and saw the workload led by Deon Jackson. He finished with 13 carries for 14 yards and lost two fumbles. Jackson had an opportunity to really take the reins and shine but could not capitalize on his opportunity. Rookie Evan Hull left with a knee injury and we even saw practice squad call up Jake Funk get involved in the fourth quarter. The run game must get fixed this week if they want any chance of success this season.

Colts defense played well

All things considered; I thought the defense really held up well against Jacksonville. They never let up on them and they were prepared in nearly every aspect. The team forced three fumbles and Pro Bowl LB Zaire Franklin was all over the place wreaking havoc on the Jacksonville offense. The captains and leaders really set the physical tone and kept it going to the end.

If there was one criticism, it would be the coverage (deep coverage especially) that they had against Calvin Ridley. Ridley had a great return from his year-long suspension and Indy just didn’t have an answer for him from the start. Another surprise was the strong play of the defensive line against the Jaguars offensive line. DeForest Bucker, Grover Stewart and Kwity Paye all collected sacks in the game.

How was coaching for Colts in Week 1?

This will continue to be a fluid issue as the new coaching staff continues to improve and get better with the players and other staff around them. There will be some growing pains with everyone, but Shane Steichen is a rookie coach and will need to learn on the fly with game day decisions and play calling while juggling head coach duties as well.

His play calling was conservative to start but grew in aggressiveness as the game progressed. Indianapolis was put into too many third and longs and then got greedy sometimes and went for it on fourth down as well. An improved running game would help to facilitate higher third down conversion rates and rely less on the legs of Anthony Richardson. This coaching staff will be a work in progress until at least the second half of the season.

What are 2023 expectations for the Colts moving forward?

As mentioned above, entering the season, many experts had the Colts in the 2-8 win range. It’s time reassess those numbers. I think it’s safe to say we can eliminate the lower win numbers and bring some higher totals into play. Is this team a playoff team right now? No, I don’t believe it is but with the rumored return of running back Jonathan Taylor due back in Week 5, one could argue with a decent run game yesterday, the Colts could have easily won this game.

Taylor would take some pressure off of Richardson on both the ground and in the air. No football team can win games against playoff teams like Jacksonville with only 65 yards rushing. It’s not sustainable. While fans might be upset with Taylor right now, he is an undeniable star talent and player. Would Taylor make this squad a playoff team? No, but a contender is very plausible. With a weak schedule still in front of Indianapolis, the hopeful return of Taylor and the promising start to Richardson’s career, its safe to say that the Colts franchise is ahead of schedule.