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Colts will start rookie QB Anthony Richardson in preseason opener at Buffalo

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson throws at NFL team's football training camp in Westfield, Ind., Saturday, July 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WESTFIELD, Ind. (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts promised to wait patiently for rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to develop into a starter.

Apparently, he’s a quick learner.

First-year coach Shane Steichen announced Thursday the No. 4 overall draft pick will start Saturday’s preseason opener at Buffalo after working mostly with Indy’s starters this week.

“We’ll start Anthony and then we’ll go from there,” Steichen said. “He’ll be out there with the first unit, yeah.”

Richardson and veteran Gardner Minshew have been battling for the No. 1 spot since offseason work began. Steichen has not said when, or if, he’ll announce a winner before Indy’s regular-season opener Sept. 10 against Jacksonville.

Still, Steichen intends to use each of Indy’s top two quarterbacks — Richardson and Minshew — about a quarter. Sam Ehlinger, who made three starts last season, his second in the league, will get whatever is left.

Steichen also knows Minshew well since they worked together in Philadelphia each of the previous two seasons, so giving Richardson more game-day snaps also makes sense.

Richardson now has a chance to show everyone how far he’s come in just a few months.

The talented 21-year-old dazzled scouts with what some described as the most athletic workout by a quarterback in NFL scouting combine history when he first arrived in Indy.

Over the past 2 1/2 weeks at training camp, Richardson has continued to demonstrate his arm strength, ability to throw from different angles and mobility. He’s also been inconsistent, a typical feature among rookie quarterbacks particularly one who went 6-7 as the starter at Florida. Next up for Richardson is facing a different defense with live tackling.

How does Richardson assess his own development ahead of his first NFL game?

“Honestly, I don’t know because I haven’t gone up against anybody yet,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot. I think I’ve taken a big step whether it’s chemistry, play-calling or just recognizing the defense.”

Teammates believe Richardson earned the start.

Tight end Kylen Granson said he’s been impressed with Richardson’s speedy, seamless transition.

“We throw a lot at you right off the bat,” Granson said. “I know my head was spinning. That was tough. But I couldn’t even imagine a quarterback having to learn so much more.”

Minshew, a former NFL backup and starter, also believes it’s time to give Richardson a new challenge.

“He’s earned a lot of respect early on,” Minshew said. “He does that by how he prepares. He wants to learn how to do it the right way, so I think he’s doing everything he needs to right now.”

While Richardson will be Indy’s featured attraction this weekend, fans will be watching other names, too.

Steichen hasn’t said whether three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard would make even a cameo appearance Saturday after missing 14 games last season because of two back surgeries and a concussion. Leonard was finally cleared for full contact last Saturday and has continued to participate in padded workouts this week.

Running back Jonathan Taylor will not play. The 2021 NFL rushing champion remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery and amid what has evolved into an ugly contract dispute that included a trade request.

Taylor wants a new deal before he starts the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and has reportedly left the Grand Park training camp facility in Westfield, Indiana, a 30-minute drive from the team headquarters, to continue rehabbing his ankle.

Indy has two practices next week at Grand Park, both joint practices with the Chicago Bears, and Steichen remains hopeful Taylor can return before Indy returns to its regular facility.

“I don’t have an answer for that and a timetable on that but really looking forward to getting him back and getting him healthy and getting him back out there playing with the guys,” Steichen said when asked if Taylor might practice next week.

So without Taylor and possibly Leonard, Colts fans will be eager to see if their quarterback of the future has what it takes to quickly emerge as their opening day starter.

“Consistency,” Richardson said when asked about this weekend’s goal. “I know I can run, and I know I can pass — whatever is called. I’m just trying to do my job the right way and be consistent with it.”