JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2023 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Mike Chappell – longtime Colts beat writer for the Indianapolis Star for 25 seasons now with Fox 59 – on the Colts as they enter Sunday's 2023 Week 1 game against the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Question: The perception nationally is the Colts will struggle this season. What's your assessment?
Answer: Finally, the national media probably has it right. Keep in mind the national media said this team was the favorite to win the AFC South last year. It didn't happen. It's going to be a struggle. You're going with a rookie quarterback (Anthony Richardson) who has played 13 games and threw less than 400 passes [at the University of Florida]. He has seen some stuff in training camp, the joint practices and the two preseason games he played, but he's going to see everything September 10th. That's when people come at you.
Q: Talk about Richardson a bit …
A: He has the temperament, but he's inconsistent. He has highlights in training camp and then he throws balls in the dirt. You knew you would see a young quarterback with great talent, a great arm. We saw snippets of the running in the preseason, but they didn't do a lot of that. They didn't game plan, but you can see that he's going to cause people problems with his legs. The passing is going to be a work in progress. He's going to create a problem with his legs when he gets to the corner. So much is going to be expected for this kid. He is going to have good days and he'll have bad days. What you hope is the good outweighs the bad and the bad doesn't drag everybody down too much.
Q: But you believe he's the guy until he proves he is not.
A: It's how does he handle himself in the pocket? How does he handle himself when it's third-and-12? I think he'll do OK. He has the right temperament. He's level-headed. He moved his family here, and some of his close advisors. He wanted to be grounded by those guys and they're going to help him. The players named him one of the seven captains. It was a player vote, the top seven guys were captains, and he was one of the top seven. That tells you something. They believe in him, bottom line. We'll see how this season goes, but gives you hope that maybe he's the guy. Until then, he's the seventh straight regular season-opener starter [for the Colts], which is ridiculous. But he gives you hope that he can lead you back from the wilderness. Before then, all you were doing was running in place. You weren't getting anywhere. This guy gives you a chance.
Q: For those who don't understand the situation with running back Jonathan Taylor, explain as simply as possible.
A: The short answer is he wants more money now and the team says, "Wait." He wants top-market money and he's telling people he's still hurt. That just doesn't fly. The problem is the timing is absolutely awful for him. Forget the devalued [running back] market [around the NFL]. This is a Colts issue. They're coming off a four-win season and they have a new coaching staff. What if [new Head Coach] Shane Steichen says, "Yeah, he is a great player, but I don't need $13 million and a great player?" Right now, it's just awkward. I understand his point where, "Hey, I'm 24 and running backs get hurt and the league tells us we're not that valued. So, I want to get mine now." What's complicating things is this is the first year they've really held firm on not giving a quality player in his final year a contract. The owner (Jim Irsay) comes out and says, "No organization takes care of their players better than we do." Taylor says, "Wait a minute, what about me?" I don't know what to expect anymore because somebody has to give. Either the Colts have to blink or he has to blink. In my mind, the Colts aren't blinking. He has to decide is he willing to so-called die on this hill? Which is a strange stand because there will be a game September 10th and the Colts will have a running back. It's not going to be near the player of Jonathan Taylor, but they will still play.
Q: Outside of these issues, how are the Colts offensively?
A: With Taylor, they would have been hard to defend with the run game. He's that good. It's going to be a struggle without Taylor. Take anybody's stud player away, non-quarterback, and what do you have?
It's going to hurt you.
Q: This has been a good defensive team at times in recent seasons. How are they there now?
A: They were pretty good early last year, then everything kind of went to heck. They had injuries. [Linebacker] Shaquille Leonard played three games, but he might as well have played none. And then the corners got hurt and then they gave up 30-some points a game over the last eight or nine games. So they should be better. The problem is they're pretty good on the front seven but we'll see about the back end. They're so young. That's the problem. You're asking a young secondary to play with along with a suspect pass rush. That's just not a good combination.
Q: This was a team that two years ago felt like a talented team without a quarterback. How did it get here?
A: It's a good question. If they had played a little bit better last year, they could easily have won eight games. They really could have. But a lot of teams can say that. For all the good moves that [General Manager] Chris Ballard has made, the three positions that they've not gotten right are quarterback, left tackle and pass rush. That's the three premier positions. This will be interesting this year. They'll fight their ass off, but everybody gives effort, don't they?
Q: And it's really all about the rookie quarterback's development …
A: If [backup quarterback] Gardner Minshew was starting, they might win a couple [additional] games. Former Colts Head Coach Rick Venturi calls him a singles hitter, which is probably what he is. But this is not a singles league. Twelve-play drives just don't happen very much. The new kid gives them a chance to really open the game up and he's going to have some big runs, but can everybody else do their job? It's funny. When we talked to Irsay in July in training camp, he said, "We really hope Jonathan Taylor could be part of this with Anthony Richardson." All the time they're saying, "We need this guy (Taylor) to be really good," yet they're not going to do anything to appease him. Right now there's no one you game plan for other than the rookie quarterback. He needs all the help he can get. Right now, they don't have a lot of help for him, I don't think.