clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Breaking down Anthony Richardson’s first preseason start vs Bills

The Colts’ rookie QB got his first NFL action against Buffalo

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Richardson got his first NFL action on Saturday, putting together an up-and-down performance against the Buffalo Bills on the road. Richardson got one drive against many Bills starters (Milano, Hyde, Poyer, Rousseau amongst some) and then the rest against mostly backups. It was a good first test for the young quarterback and he demonstrated most of his strengths and weaknesses in the game. He went 7/12 for 67 yards with 1 interception and 7 rushing yards on a few drives.

Each Throw & Run

Going in the order of the clips from Landon Oliver’s Twitter post below

Play 1

On his first throw, the Colts essentially ran a Hooks concept across the board. Richardson stared down McKinney the entire way, which made it easier for the Bills defenders to close in on him and make an easy tackle. Looking on the strong-side of the formation, Granson was open on a curl out and there was a hitch open too at the top of the screen. My guess is the Colts are giving Richardson half field reads to ease his decision making process, but nevertheless staring down McKenzie is prevented him from getting any YAC yards. Besides that, the throw itself was well placed with good velocity.

Play 2

His next throw was a designed bubble screen. These throws are surprisingly tough to make because the quarterback needs to set his feet quickly after receiving the snap and get the ball out quickly and in the right spot; he needs to lead the receiver. Richardson does a good job of getting the ball out quickly and getting it to a good enough spot.

Play 3

His third throw, which resulted in an interception, was obviously a poor play overall. The nickel showed blitz late and came in pretty hot. This took Richardson by surprise and he completely got lost with his footwork, getting completely off balanced. It’s worth noting that the slot receiver McKenzie (who properly pointed out the blitz) cut off his out route too late/deep, which caused him to take more depth down the field. That resulted in the safety, who ended up taking him, having a much easier time playing him. Had McKenzie cut his out route at 2-3 yards (which is what I believe Richardson expected), I believe Richardson would’ve gotten the ball out to him without hesitation. Nevertheless, Richardson needs to know that he can’t force a ball into a dangerous area especially under pressure and himself off-platform. To me, it’s 30% McKenzie’s fault and 70% Richardson’s fault.

Play 4

The next play, which was his first run, is quite scary (in a good way). He avoids a tackle in the backfield, shows great acceleration at 250 pounds, takes the ball outside and then completely runs over a guy for 5-6 yards. It may seem like a lot of work for 5-6 yards but if you get 5 yards every play you’ll win every game. If he can generate that type of production with his feet, he’s special.

Play 5

On his 4th throw of the game, he opens up to the weak-side of the field, which once again indicates to me that they’re just giving him half field reads to ease his decision-making process. From there, he makes a very nice read and times the ball relatively well, hitting the receiver about 2-3 steps out of his break (ideally 1-2 steps is what most NFL quarterbacks aim for). The only issue is that his throw is a little too much arms and it seems like his arms and body are a little disconnected on the play which is what led to the inaccuracy. The way this can be noticed is that his body stops rotating fully after the ball is released (think of a golfer who stops his follow through after the ball is hit). These little things are what lead to inaccurate throws, but because his shoulder alignment was pretty good, he only got away with a slight sailing of the ball. All in all, a fine result.

Play 6

There’s lots of pressure here on his 5th throw and it happens pretty quickly after the snap. With only two receivers running routes and only one to the side in which he moves to to buy time, Richardson smartly dirts this pass well short of Pittman. On 2nd and 4, this is the right move to give yourself a favourable chance of converting on 3rd and 4, instead of playing hero ball and turning the ball over. Well done here.

Play 7

On his 6th throw of the game, he misses a pretty golden opportunity to pass to Pittman and probably get the first down. The 3 other receivers who all ran deeper routes were all completely covered. The protection was good enough and Pittman, who is a running a quick dig, does a good enough job to gain some separation out of his break. The linebacker reading Richardson didn’t fully move over yet to take away Richardson’s passing lane to Pittman so Pittman was pretty open. A screenshot is posted below showing the exact moment where Pittman is open out of his break, the linebacker is late to react and Pittman is safely in a pocket with his feet somewhat set. This is considered pretty wide open in the NFL and Richardson needs to hit Pittman right out of his break here. Instead, he scrambles and doesn’t get the first down.

Play 8

I really like the field reading and the eye movement on his 7th throw of the game, he just needs to actually hit his receiver! It’s tough to tell because of the angle, but usually when someone is inaccurate like that it’s because of his shoulder alignment. Your shoulder being misaligned by a few inches makes yards of difference. Granson sits in a nice zone under the defensive backs and was wide open so Richardson’s read here was correct.

Play 9

It might be a designed screen pass which is straightforward, but I love the footwork on this play. He takes a nice drop back, staring at the opposite side of where the screen happens and then throws a nice little pass. What’s subtle is that the defensive end was bull-rushing the right tackle which actually took his passing lane away, so Richardson stepped back, adjusted his throwing motion slightly and created a new throwing lane outside the right tackle. It’s those little things about arm angles that every quarterback needs to work on because it can save you, as shown in his 8th throw.

Play 10

I really like this throw (his 9th of the game). He does such a great job on the run/ride fake and #53 linebacker bites quite hard on it. He does a good job of hitting Granson, who was 100% the right read and does so with ok timing. Had he been a bit later on the throw though, #53 could’ve made a play on the ball. Richardson could’ve thrown the ball a bit earlier. He throws the ball about 4 steps after Granson’s break so it’s a little late, but he makes a good throw on a nice read so you take that. The throw was a A- and the difference from it being an A+ is the ball needed to be thrown 1-2 steps out of the break, a little more out in front of Granson (leading him) so that he can catch the ball in stride and have a better opportunity to get some YAC yards. A screenshot below shows the ideal point of which the ball should’ve been released. Nevertheless, still a very nice play.

Play 11

On his 10th throw of the game, Richardson finds a nice one-on-one matchup on the strong-side of the field and throws a nice pass. His mechanics were flawless on this play, he is light on his feet, his base is stable, his shoulders are perfectly aligned and his throw has great rotation and a proper follow through, which results in a perfect thrown ball, which hits Pierce on his outside shoulder/chest area away from the defensive back. I like the read and the defensive back was on his own on an island and had to hold which led to a penalty. This was a really nice job by Richardson and the mechanics on this play show me there’s a lot of potential.

Play 12

His 11th throw of the game was his best. He finds his ideal 1v1 matchup down the field, takes a nice hitch up in the pocket to completely avoid pressure and get a little extra power on the throw. His mechanics were again flawless (strong base, good rotation, good follow through) and his shoulders were slightly elevated to the perfect amount (to create an arch on the bucket throw). The placement of the pass was absolutely perfect and thrown to a spot where only Pierce could catch it. This was absolutely fantastic, too bad Pierce couldn’t hold on.

Play 13

His 12th throw of the game is another beauty. He takes a straight drop back staring down the field to avoid detection of where he wants to throw. He quickly adjusts and sets to his right and flicks a pass to McKenzie, which was the right read. This was another situation where he shows a slightly different arm angle. His improvement as the game went on was very evident.

Play 14

On his 2nd run of the game, he keeps the ball on a run option. The defensive end actually sits but Richardson is so fast that it doesn’t matter and he still beats him to the outside. His acceleration and explosiveness is very apparent. He wins the race to the corner and breaks a tackle in the process. I’m convinced that even if 11 defensive guys are playing the quarterback on a run that Richardson should still keep it and run!

Play 15

His last throw of the game wasn’t his best. While he does a good job of reading the field and going through his progressions, he doesn’t properly set himself and align to the target before he releases the ball. This is what led to the ball sailing. What also didn’t help is that like one of his earlier throws he didn’t fully rotate through the ball. So a combination of mechanical errors here is what led to the miss. The read on the other hand, coupled with him going through his progressions well is encouraging.


Decision Making Grade — B+

He made a lot of smart decisions; I believe the Colts offense gave him a very easy start giving him half-field reads for the most part and easy route concepts, but he still made the right reads. The interception early on is what’s stopping this from being in the A’s.

Play Making Grade — B

When he has the ball in his hands, it’s scary what he can. He can flick the ball 35 yards or keep the ball and run over guys. The big plays weren’t there much against Buffalo but what he showed was wild.

Mechanics Grade — B-

When his mechanics are good (proper alignment, stable base, rotation through the ball), he makes perfect throws. At other times, he doesn’t properly set or rotate well and it leads to some inaccurate throws, even if the receiver is open. The reason I’m optimistic is he demonstrated that he can be perfect on throws.

Accuracy Grade — B-

This ties in a bit with mechanics, but he threw some absolutely perfect throws and he either sailed or missed some easy ones. The inconsistency is definitely real, but the highs are perfect.

Overall Grade — B

His first drive wasn’t pretty, but he showed very nice improvement as the game went on and that’s very encouraging. When his mechanics are perfect, the ball comes out perfectly. This is why I believe he can become an accurate quarterback because accuracy stems from mechanics and he’s showed he can make throws with great form, whereas many other quarterbacks can’t. The Colts didn’t run him much, but if they want to, they have a freight train in their arsenal. All in all, a solid respectable performance and something he can build off.