Outside the Butler Bubble: Indianapolis Colts 2023-24 season preview

Anthony Richardson made his rookie debut on Sept. 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Photo courtesy of Coltswire.com.

DAVID MORGAN | SPORTS REPORTER | djmorgan@butler.edu 

“Outside the Butler Bubble,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes Indiana sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

The Indianapolis Colts opened their 2023-24 season with an exciting, yet disappointing, 31-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are a lot of question marks around this year’s squad, such as how well first-round draft pick quarterback Anthony Richardson will perform, and what jersey star running back Jonathan Taylor may be wearing by mid-November. While most experts pick this season’s Colts team as one of the weaker teams in the NFL, there’s no doubt they will be one of the more talked about teams this year. 

Indianapolis brought in Florida Gators gunslinger Richardson with the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. Richardson rose up draft boards as his 6’4”, 230-pound frame racked up 3,192 total yards and 26 total touchdowns. The Gators quarterback is also known for his ability to escape pressure and break off impressive runs, which allows the dual threat to have one of the highest ceilings within the entire 2023 NFL Draft class. He flashed these talents already at week one to a sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium. Not to mention, the 21-year-old rookie was one of the seven captains selected for the team, an honor that is mostly given to older veterans. 

To pair with Richardson, the Colts also brought in former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their new head coach. The Eagles were one of the better offenses that finished third in points per game on their way to an NFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance. For a team that struggled on offense last year, there should be an expectation that the Colts’ offense will take a leap forward with this new leadership. 

Defensively, Indianapolis sticks with Gus Bradley as he begins his second year as defensive coordinator. With a defensive line that ranks 17th and a secondary that ranks 31st according to Pro Football Focus’ 2023 preseason analysis, Bradley will have his work cut out with very little room for error. 

Junior business major Nick Shramm, a Colts season ticket holder, thinks the season’s biggest question mark is what will happen with Taylor. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with that mess,” Schramm said. “I’ll be surprised either way, whether he remains a Colt or finds a new team. I always enjoy watching him play.” 

The all-pro back and the Colts front office have been in a standoff amidst contract negotiations this past summer. Taylor, who has had injuries in the past, was looking for an extension with the team even after his final year of a four-year, $7.9 million contract. The front office has been reluctant to give him any guaranteed money, however, until he gets back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for six games last year. 

In late July, Taylor officially asked to seek a trade, which was granted by owner Jim Irsay and executives. As of today, no deal has been done, and the Colts have placed him on the physically unable to perform — or PUP — list to start the year, meaning he will not play for the first four games. 

Taylor is a household name for most Colts fans, along with guys like Michael Pittman, Shaquille Leonard and possibly even Richardson. Another name junior business major Cam Heald said fans should look out for is Alec Pierce

“He’s super talented, and I don’t think a lot of people see that,” Heald said. “I don’t think [it’ll be] crazy if we see him breakout.” 

Pierce is a second-year wide receiver that was taken in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He started in 12 of 16 games and had over 500 yards and two touchdowns. 

With the rocket arm of Richardson, and the 4.3 speed of Pierce, the two could be connecting deep any given Sunday. 

Behind every team’s exciting and flashy playmakers is their offensive line. Brendan King, a host on 107.5 The Fan, highlighted the line as one of the team’s glaring holes.

“With the regression of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith not living up to the hype, Richardson may just have to try and stay alive each week,” King said.

Indianapolis was 25th in both pressured percentage per drop back and quarterback hits allowed last year. The Colts are hoping to keep both numbers low with Richardson’s running ability. 

The frustrations may mount for a team with a lot of unproven talent and missing depth. However, with recent draft picks, the third easiest schedule according to PFF and a division that will be highly competitive, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Colts fans. 


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