Anthony Richardson could be a big roadblock for the Jaguars in AFC South race

• The Jaguars cannot overlook Anthony Richardson and the Colts in 2024.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) looks for an open receiver Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) looks for an open receiver Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

When discussing the best quarterbacks in the AFC South, the debate mostly centers on C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence. However, Anthony Richardson, who missed most of his rookie season after hurting his shoulder, could join the conversation in 2024. If the sophomore signal-caller bounces back and makes a leap, he could become a threat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South race.

Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report recently wrote about the top storylines that will determine the winner in each division. He had Richardson's development as the biggest X-Factor in the AFC South, noting that he'll potentially give the Indianapolis Colts a dual-threat at quarterback.

"Despite losing Richardson so early in the year, the Colts fielded the league's 10th-ranked scoring offense with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew under center. All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor missed seven games because of ankle and thumb injuries, but head coach and offensive play-caller Shane Steichen kept the Colts offense humming.

Before his arrival in Indianapolis, Steichen helped Justin Herbert break multiple rookie passing records and had a hand in Jalen Hurts' MVP-caliber year in 2022. As one of the league's best offensive play-callers, he could utilize Richardson's dual-threat playmaking ability like he did with Hurts and turn the Colts into a scoring juggernaut."

The fourth overall pick in last year's draft, Richardson was seen as a talented yet raw prospect coming out of college, having attempted fewer than 400 passes at Florida. However, he quickly put doubts to rest and showcased his potential before he sprained his AC joint in Week 4. He underwent shoulder surgery not long after and spent the remainder of the season recovering.

Richardson rehab went fine. Although he experienced soreness during Organized Team Activities, the Colts weren't overly concerned. In fact, they expect him to be at full strength by the time training camp rolls out.

Last year, Richardson was named the starter over Gardner Minshew in training camp. He flashed in a limited sample, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 577 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Florida native is projected to make strides under the tutelage of Shane Steichen. If he does make a leap, he'll give an already productive offense a big boost next season.

Anthony Richardson could make things difficult for the Jaguars in 2024

The Houston Texans are the reigning AFC South champions and the Jacksonville Jaguars' biggest hurdle to clear to make the playoffs. However, the Indianapolis Colts could prove to be as much of a threat if Anthony Richardson makes a successful return to the field.

The Jags know firsthand how good Anthony Richardson is. They faced him in the 2023 opener and took things to the wire. The Indianapolis Colts ultimately lost but it's fair to assume that the outcome of the game could've been different if they had played against him later in the season.

It's also worth noting that Jacksonville swept the Colts last year but it's hard to see them repeating the feat in 2024. While they didn't make any splash signings in free agency, they did a good job of retaining core contributors such as wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Add the arrival of rookie Adonai Mitchell and their offense could be even better next year.

The Colts' defense could also give Jacksonville trouble. They ranked 28th in points allowed in 2023 but they routinely popped up in the top 10 in prior years. They have enough talent in place to bounce back next season.

The truth is that Indy could join the Jaguars and Houston in a three-way race for the division crown in 2024. Last year, the Colts came close to making the playoffs and there's a chance they'll make an even stronger push next season.

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