The Baltimore Ravens will be back at home in Week 3, with a 2-0 record and sitting alone atop the AFC North standings, following a great statement win over the Cincinnati Bengals. While they’ve known for months that the Indianapolis Colts will be their opponent this week, what they don’t know yet is who will be lining up under center and leading the charge on offense for the former Charm City franchise come Sunday.
After an explosive start to his team’s eventual 31-20 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 2, Colts rookie starting quarterback Anthony Richardson is in jeopardy of potentially missing the first game of his young career. He suffered a self-reported concussion following his second touchdown run, exited to game in the second quarter, and did not return.
As of Wednesday, Richardson remains in the concussion protocol and isn’t practicing but that could change later in the week. The 21-year-old was replaced in the game by fifth-year veteran Gardner Minshew, who led three scoring drives in Sunday’s win and finished 19-of-23 for 171 passing yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
If the first-round pick who was taken No. 4 overall after a record-setting performance at the 2023 NFL Combine can’t go in Week 3, Minshew will be the starter in his place against the Ravens. He comes with 24 career starts worth of experience under his belt and has shown that he can get hot as a passer, although he is nowhere near in the same stratosphere as Richardson when it comes to athleticism and ability to threaten defenses with his legs.
“Coach (Shane) Steichen brought the system from Philly, and we understand that system,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve had a lot of that system in our system, as well, over the years. But they’re different quarterbacks, for sure. Minshew, you know how he is. He can get hot, and he’s a very dynamic player.”
Prior to being hired as the Colts head coach this past offseason, Steichen spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. In that role, he helped groom another dangerous athletic quarterback, Jalen Hurts, into a Pro Bowler and league MVP candidate who nearly led the team to the second Super Bowl victory in franchise history last year.
Having to prepare for two quarterbacks with completely different skill sets can be a challenge for opposing coaching staff and players. It can sometimes require watching twice as much film and coming up with entirely opposite plans of attack. However, the Ravens believe they’re up to the task and getting ready to face whoever winds up getting the start for the Colts come Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at M&T Bank Stadium.
Harbs on preparing for both of the Colts quarterbacks: pic.twitter.com/w1307NiV6I— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2023
“The problem is going to be the reps,” Harbaugh said. “They’re just a little bit different in what plays they run, specifically. So, we’ll just have to get a feel for that as the week goes on, and really, we’ll have to prepare for both.”
If Richardson gets the start, it will mean the entirety of the Colts’ playbook will be open for them to run because of the dynamic dual-threat element he brings on designed runs and improvised scrambles.
Minshew is a natural gunslinger who reads defenses and processes a lot quicker than the rookie at this stage of his career so the Ravens pass rush likely won’t have as much time to try to generate pressure and get sacks if he gets the start.
“They’re both two different types of quarterbacks the way they’re used, so we’ve been going over that,” Stone said. “We’ve really just been preparing whoever we get, it doesn’t matter. We have to go play our solid defense, that’s just facts. We’ll just go from there.”
While the Ravens have yet to face Richardson given that he is in his first season in the league, they’ve gone up against Minshew once before. It came in Week 15 of the 2020 regular season in Baltimore. Minshew started for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and lost 40-14 to the hosting Ravens.
That day, Minshew had an efficient yet underwhelming outing. He finished 22-of-29 for 226 passing yards and two touchdowns with no interception and a passer rating of 120.8. Unfortunately for him and the Jaguars, he was outdueled by Lamar Jackson who was fresh off a unanimous MVP-winning campaign the year before and went 17-of-22 for 243 passing yards and three touchdowns to one interception, and added another 35 yards and another touchdown on the ground with his legs.
While Richardson didn’t finish either of his first two career starts due to minor injuries, he has looked impressive for most of the 87 offensive snaps he has played. In just over five combined quarters of action, he has led four scoring drives and recorded 279 passing yards and a touchdown with one interception on 30 completions and 75 rushing yards, and another three touchdowns on the ground.
There goes the rookie! Anthony Richardson runs it in for the first score of the game!— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 17, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/5gK57fV0Cg
“Richardson has been – man – he’s been tough to defend the last couple weeks,” Harbaugh said.
A challenge that the Ravens are expecting to face no matter who is under center is the speedup pace of the Colts’ offense. Fourth-year inside linebacker Patrick Queen believes that quicker communication will be key to his unit’s success.
“I think the greatest challenge is just being able to communicate fast,” Queen said. “I know [the Colts] go up tempo a little bit, and the focus point for us is just being able to communicate when things are going fast. You’ll tend to see us having a little trouble here and there with that. That’s been all throughout camp, so we’re just still polishing that stuff up, still getting better at that, and still trying to execute those things.”