(Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Suddenly, it is an embarrassment of riches for the Indianapolis Colts, who have options at quarterback this week for a test against the visiting Los Angeles Rams.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew guided the Colts (2-1) to their second consecutive victory last week with a 22-19 overtime decision on theroad over the Baltimore Ravens. But dynamic rookie Anthony Richardson was a full participant at practice Wednesday and looks ready to return under center.
The only hangup at the moment is that Richardson still has not officially cleared concussion protocol. That status could come as early as Thursday, with Richardson expected to start Sunday.
Richardson was injured in a Week 2 victory over the Houston Texans, and while he was out last week, he was on the sideline as Minshew guided the offense with 227 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"He was definitely engaged, he was excited when we were scoring and making plays," Colts head coach Shane Steichen said of Richardson. "Obviously, being around the quarterbacks in between series, talking through things and learning that way was huge."
Yet, Sunday was not all about Minshew Mania. The Colts' blitzing defense made life miserable for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, and former Rams kicker Matt Gay booted five field goals, including the game-winning 53-yarder in overtime -- one of an NFL record four from 50 yards or longer in a single game.
Quarterback pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford is what guided the Cincinnati Bengals to a victory Monday night over Los Angeles and the Colts look ready to return to a blitzing game plan once again.
"Our defense, they continue to prove it week in and week out, our defensive line, our linebackers, and our (defensive backs) as a whole," Steichen said. "... They are playing together. They're playing physical. They're on the same page."
In addition to Richardson, Indianapolis center Ryan Kelly (concussion) was a full participant Wednesday, while defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (groin) and guard Quenton Nelson (toe) did not practice.
After a surprise Week 1 victory at Seattle, the Rams (1-2) appear back where they were expected to be -- in rebuilding mode. In a Week 2 defeat at home against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams earned praise for keeping the game closer than expected.
And while Monday's 19-16 loss to the Bengals was another tight affair, the offense under Stafford left a lot to be desired. The Rams shunned a rushing attack that was better than advertised in the first two weeks and suddenly struggled to either sustain drives or finish in the red zone at Cincinnati.
"There was just a lot of self-inflicted wounds," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "I thought the defense kept us in the game the whole night and I thought it was really unfortunate, especially early on where we had to settle for field goals."
Injuries to the offensive line derailed Los Angeles' 2022 season and those issues are slowly starting to manifest again. Left tackle Alaric Jackson (thigh) and right guard Joe Noteboom (knee, shoulder) missed time in Monday's game with injuries.
While Rams rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua had 25 receptions for 266 yards in the first two games of his career, he was held to five catches for 72 yards Monday.
Sunday's game at Indianapolis represents a chance for Los Angeles to even their overall record on the season, yet it also holds significance as potentially the team's final game without All-Pro wideout Cooper Kupp (hamstring), who started the season on injured reserve.
"Any time that you're able to get a player of his caliber back, that will be a boost to our offense," McVay said, who will soon be able to use Nacua, Kupp and fellow wideouts Tutu Atwell and Van Jefferson in the passing attack.
"Hopefully, the first thing is he's ready to go, then the next part is, let's figure out how we piece and puzzle that together with some of the things that are going on offensively."
On a short week, the Rams had a walkthrough Wednesday but listed Jackson, tight end Tyler Higbee (Achilles) and wide receiver Ben Skowronek (Achilles) as non-participants. Nacua (oblique) was limited, while Noteboom was a full participant.
--Field Level Media