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5 Questions with Stampede Blue: What we learned about the Colts

Gather intel on the enemy as the Jaguars prepare to face the Colts in Week 1.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

As the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare to play the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, we sat down with Chris Shepherd of Stampede Blue to learn more about the opposing side.

Question 1: First and foremost — how many games will Jonathan Taylor play for the Colts this year and where will he be playing in 2024?

I’m glad that you asked. This is going to sound crazy but this off-season I went to a psychic to get some insight on the future of the Colts, if you’re interested you can read all about that trip here it’s just as crazy as it sounds, and I thought she was crazy when she told me that Jonathan Taylor would rush for fewer than 1,200 yards. At the time he had just said he wanted to retire a Colt and news came out that he was healthy. So when the psychic dropped that on me, I was pretty sure “the universe” was full of it. How many games? That’s a good question and I don’t know. Ultimately it comes down to Chris Ballard’s ability to repair the relationship with Jonathan Taylor in the next four weeks.

The Colts have made a point that they’re not re-signing anyone right now, Grover Stewart played like a star on the defensive line last year and the guy can’t sniff an extension, they’re evaluating the roster which makes sense after coming off a bad year with a new head coach. Jonathan Taylor isn’t wrong for being upset either. It’s one of those times that the timeline doesn’t line up for either party, both sides have real needs that don’t match with the other.

Gun to my head, I don’t think he plays for the Colts this year which will hurt his value going into next year but I have this suspicion that the Colts just might use the Franchise Tag so this might not be over for quite some time.

Q2: Anthony Richardson is objectively the most athletic quarterback prospect ever, but also a very streaky passer. How did Colts fans react to such a boom-bust first-round pick, and have the vibes gotten better or worse since April?

Colts fans, I think, are taking a wait and see approach with Richardson and his passing. It’s impossible to ignore his poor basic stats while at Florida, but if you turn on the tape (something most Colts fans didn’t actually do) you start to see why the Colts felt comfortable drafting him with a top five pick. If you were designing an offense with the goal of making it the most difficult modern offense for a young quarterback to succeed in, you would end up with something that looked a lot like the 2022 Florida offense under Billy Napier. Beyond the scheme, Richardson displayed abilities beyond his experience level, working reads, manipulating defenders post snap, he really did everything you could want a young quarterback to do. He just didn’t do it all the time. He also had a very real issue with his accuracy.

Colts fans need to be patient because the tools, not just the physical tools but the mental tools are absolutely there for Richardson, he just needs to gain experience and often the best way to do that is to get on the field, play and make mistakes. There will be times it’s going to look rough. There will be other times that he does things that we’ve literally never seen a quarterback do on a football field before. It’s going to be exciting, but it won’t always be good. We need to be patient, something sports fans aren’t historically known to be good at.

Q3: Doug Pederson said to media last Thursday, “We know defensively with Gus [Bradley], we played him twice last year and we know kind of what their structure is.” Jaguars fans are also well aware of Bradley’s vanilla Cover 3 scheme. What are Colts fans looking for from Bradley and the defensive side of the ball this season?

It’s true Gus plays a lot of single high, middle of the field closed coverage but his defense has evolved over the years. I wouldn’t call it vanilla and I think calling it a cover 3 scheme is a mistake too. He’s going to mix up his coverages and will give a lot of man looks and will mix in a variety of press and zone looks on the back end. That said- it might not matter. The Colts cornerbacks are young and young corners tend to struggle. I feel worse about the chance the corners play well enough to win, than I do the quarterback, if that tells you anything. I expect them to get burned a lot this year.

Outside of the secondary the linebackers return Shaquille Leonard to pair him with Zaire Franklin who had a breakout season a year ago and Chris Ballard has built the deepest defensive line of his tenure, though it ultimately lacks a single dominant pass rusher. The Colts should be able to send waves of fresh rushers all game long this season.

Question 4: What’s the feeling in Indianapolis regarding Shane Steichen? Most NFL fans are likely familiar with him from his Super Bowl run with Philly last year, but has he done anything since being hired as Colts coach to give fans a real reason for hope or doubt?

He’s building an offense around what Anthony Richardson does well. He’s talked about using concepts he did well before and essentially majoring in those while he builds out the offense in ways that make sense as Richardson grows as a player. You can’t really ask for a better philosophy from the guy responsible for building an offense around your rookie quarterback. And I would be hesitant to believe that the guy could do it but he’s done it twice, now.

He’s talked about his process with Justin Herbert, how Herbert wasn’t supposed to start and the things that he learned from the adjustments he had to make on the fly. And then what he did with Jalen Hurts was on full display for everyone who was paying attention. So he’s built offenses for young quarterbacks before and he’s had success. His process for Richardson is, logically, as good as it gets.

He’s a first time head coach so personally I have some concerns about his ability to actually be a head coach, but given everything else he’s doing for Richardson, there’s real reason for hope.

Q5: The Jaguars are 5-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Which side of the spread are you taking, and are there any player/game props that fancy your interest?

Here’s the thing, there’s no way I can say this without Jags fans thinking I’m a dirty homer. But I’m not! I swear! The Jags are far and away the better team and at the end of the season these two teams’ records will reflect that statement.

But having said that, I think this one is going to be close for a few reasons.

Reason 1: It’s Week 1. Go back and look at the results of every week one for the past 20 years. It’s littered with bizarre finishes. Teams that only win one game, manage to eek one out against future playoff teams... not that you guys would know anything about that.

Reason 2: Nobody knows exactly what the Colts offense is going to look like. Now, I’ve got a pretty good idea, which means I might not have any idea at all, which means the Jags are in the same boat. The Colts are probably going to come out in a lot of pistol sets, run a lot of zone read, RPO, play action and they’re going to shrink the field off of those play actions and give Richardson a lot of easy, half field reads, that are basically just high-low reads with a dump off option built in. Probably. But the Jags defense can’t just prepare for that. They have to prepare for a lot. Or they’re focusing on what they do well and they’re just going to “do what they do” try to roll coverage post snap, leave both safeties deep and send blitzes from all over. Either strategy presents huge problems. The Colts have the advantage in that they have no offensive identity or tendencies yet.

Reason 3: That defense I talked about. The Jags love to keep those safeties deep. Last season when the Jags played Philly, they lived in that two deep shell. They tried to disguise it some, they would drop a guy down before rolling back to middle of the field open post snap but at the end of the day, both safeties were deep most of the game. To limit Hurts’ rushing ability with those deep safeties the Jags lived in zone coverage so he couldn’t scramble as well. I’m not sure Richardson will have to. The Colts will be happy to run zone read to death with two deep safeties and if the edge defender and linebacker start to scrape exchange it, then the Colts can just RPO the ball right behind the linebacker and the Jags will have a whole new problem.

Now, this isn’t to say that Jacksonville won’t have answers for literally all of this. But I am saying that these are the reasons I believe this matchup might be closer than the 5 (now 4.5) points DraftKings is giving the Jags.

Of course I could be completely wrong and the Jaguars could win by 40. Who knows? It’s week one.

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions!

What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!