The Indianapolis Colts (2-2) host the Tennessee Titans (2-2) for their first matchup of the 2023 season. This AFC South showdown will be the first time in which the Titans will face off against budding star in rookie QB Anthony Richardson, someone they grew very familiar with in the pre-draft process.
During scouting season, Titans first-year general manager Ran Carthon made it apparent that the Florida QB would near the top of their priority list. Carthon attended Richardson's pro day and later brought him in for a team visit in April.
Richardson's mix of size and speed to go with his rushing prowess will present a unique challenge against the Titans this Sunday, especially within the red zone. The Colts offense is third-best leaguewide in red zone efficiency, behind the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. The unit is scoring a touchdown in the red area at a 72.7% rate, mainly thanks to Richardson's ability on the ground.
Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel spoke about his time with Richardson in a press conference on Monday:
""Had a great visit with him," Vrabel said. "Very engaging individual. Enjoyed it, enjoyed the time, our conversations. Spent a whole day here and did a fantastic job. He’s a big, physical, fast quarterback that's going to be a huge challenge this week.""- Mike Vrabel
Mike Vrabel is a fan of Anthony Richardson
Vrabel's anaylsis was an apt one. Through four weeks, and in just 9-of-16 quarters played, Anthony Richardson has four rushing touchdowns, good for top 10 in the NFL, regardless of position. As a passer, Richardson is no slouch. Through three games started, he has a 3:1 TD-INT ratio and is second in the NFL in passer rating against man coverage (135.4).
Richardon's threat through the air and on the ground will cause for Vrabel and Co. to do their best in preparing for the unaccounted. He currently leads the league in explosive play rate (runs of 12+ yards and passes of 20+ yards) so keeping this Richardson-led offense out of the red zone will in itself be a tall ask.
Vrabel talked all about this challenge later in the presser:
""Just takes you to defend everybody," he said. "It's a run action, you got a running back, someone's got responsibility for the quarterback, someone's got responsibility for the two receivers. The relief throws they can make off of it. [That's] what you have to defend.""- Mike Vrabel
MIke Vrabel and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen will certainly have their hands full with Anthony Richardson this Sunday, but it appears they're up for the challenge.
The Titans have bested the Colts for five straight games, with the Colts last win coming on November 12, 2020 with Philip Rivers at the helm. Indianapolis has not beaten the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium since Andrew Luck was last leading the charge. Maybe with an electrifying QB that demands an atypical amount of attention now leading the way, the Colts can turn the tide.