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2023 Opponent Breakdown: Indianapolis Colts

Our 2023 opponent breakdown series continues with Los Angeles' Week 4 road opponent, the Indianapolis Colts (Oct. 1, 10 a.m. PT on FOX).

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2022

An unusual start to the season was only the beginning for the Colts.

They opened the season with an overtime tie against the Texans, then suffered a 24-0 shutout loss to the Jaguars in Week 2. While they would upset the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs 20-17 in their home opener in Week 3, they would only win three of their first nine games.

During that span, starting quarterback Matt Ryan – who the Colts acquired in a trade with the Falcons during the offseason – was benched after suffering a Grade 2 separated shoulder against the Titans in Week 7. Rookie Sam Ehlinger started the next two games in place of of Ryan.

It was after that ninth game they fired head coach Frank Reich, who had held the position since 2018, and installed Jeff Saturday as interim head coach; Saturday subsequently reinstated Ryan as their starter. While Saturday won his NFL coaching debut with a 25-20 Colts victory over the Raiders in Las Vegas, Indianapolis would not win another game the rest of the season and finished 4-12-1 overall – a performance that clinched the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Colts were plagued by inconsistency along the offensive line for most of the 2022 season until continuity provided by a Bernhard Raimann-Quenton Nelson-Ryan Kelly-Will Fries-Braden Smith combination the second half of the season stablizied the unit.. Even so, the offensive line as a whole was responsible for 41 of the 60 sacks Indianapolis allowed, per Pro Football Focus. It also did not help that there top defensive playmaker, linebacker Shaquille Leonard, suffered through an injury-plagued 2022 campaign which limited him to just three games.

Key Changes

After a lengthy coaching search that included Saturday, the Colts hired former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their next head coach on Feb. 14. Of note, Steichen hired Jim Bob Cooter – who previously worked with Matthew Stafford during Stafford's time with the Lions – as his offensive coordinator.

Indianapolis also released Ryan, then drafted former Florida standout Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick as their quarterback of the future.

Other notable offseason moves included the signing of former Rams kicker Matt Gay to a 4-year deal and trading cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2023 fifth-round draft pick.

Head coach

Steichen enters his first season as head coach of the Colts. While it is his first NFL head coaching job, he's held various assistant coaching positions in the league since 2011. Before serving as the Eagles' offensive coordinator the last two seasons, he served as the Chargers' offensive coordinator in 2020.

What to watch for

Richardson

Widely regarded as a raw prospect, the 20-year-old Richardson still showed tantalizing upside last season at Florida because of his size, arm strength and speed. He threw nine touchdown passes of 40 or more yards in 12 games last year, plus five rushing touchdowns of 40 or more yards.

Then at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, he posted the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash by a quarterback since 2000 (4.43 seconds), but doing so at his 6-foot-4, 244-pound size was unprecedented. The other three quarterbacks to run that fast: Robert Griffin III (6-2, 223; 4.33 40-yard dash), Reggie McNeal (6-2, 198; 4.40) and Michael Vick (6-foot, 210; 4.33).

Richardson said he grew up modeling his game after Cam Newton, and their measurables were similar – or in some cases for Richardson, better.

None of that is to suggest Richardson will be Newton by Week 4 when the Rams come to Indianapolis, but a quarterback with that frame and skillset will present challenges nonetheless. It's an intriguing test for Los Angeles' defense early on.

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