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4 things Colts must prove to skeptics in 2023

The Indianapolis Colts entered a new era this offseason after the hire of Shane Steichen as the new head coach and the selection of Anthony Richardson to be their franchise quarterback of the future.

Because of the organization hitting the reset button, there isn’t much pressure on the team to win this season. But that doesn’t mean that there are some questions that people have that need to be answered in 2023.

Let’s take a look at what the Colts need to prove in the upcoming season:

Keeping Chris Ballard was the right move

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Jim Irsay decided to fire Frank Reich in the middle of last season, the immediate thought was whether Chris Ballard would keep his job as well. Irsay stated at the infamous Jeff Saturday press conference that his general manager’s job was safe. Even after the vote of confidence, with how the team imploded at the end of 2022, there was still the wonder if Ballard would be let go after the season.

The Colts general manager would end up sticking around and ran the extensive head coach search to land on Shane Steichen. The win column won’t prove that keeping Ballard was the right move this season, but his roster needs to be more competitive.

Things like Samson Ebukam’s impact on the defense and Matt Gay’s kicking performance will be something to watch to see if his big free-agent signings pay off. One thing that Ballard has done well in his time as the general manager has been finding Day 2 and 3 draft selections that are contributors as rookies.

Rookie corners Julius Brents, Darius Rush, and Jaylon Jones can add to Ballard’s long list of hits outside the first round that turn out to be quality starters in Year 1. The roster construction needs to show it is heading in the right direction for Ballard in 2023.

The development plan for Anthony Richardson

There are skeptics out there that question the selection of Anthony Richardson, but it may not be something Indianapolis can prove they made the right selection for a few seasons. The much-debated topic that surrounded Richardson in the lead-up to the NFL draft was if he should play immediately or develop in a backup role.

There was even the thought of him redshirting this season and not seeing the field until Year 2. Since the pick of Richardson, the decision makers of the Colts have been public about their belief that their quarterback needs to develop on the field. That points to the new franchise quarterback playing sooner rather than later.

All eyes will be on whether the coaching staff has Richardson prepared for the moment whenever he does end up making his first career start. How he handles the highs and lows of his rookie season will also be something to monitor. Indy doesn’t need him to be Superman in Year 1, but the last thing they can’t do is let Richardson lose any confidence in 2023.

Keeping Ryan Kelly and Kenny Moore II on the roster

Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, there was chatter that the Colts could trade Ryan Kelly and Kenny Moore II after their disappointing 2022 performances. Ballard confirmed that he received calls on the pair of veterans but felt it wasn’t the right decision to move on from them.

He told the media, “They’re both great Colts, and we’re glad they’re here,” he said. “When you’ve got a good football player that is a great person and a great fit, it makes it hard to move away from those guys.”

With the gambling investigation into Isaiah Rodgers Sr., it’s looking like it was the correct move to keep Moore II on the team. The veteran’s leadership will be needed for a young cornerback group.

Indianapolis is betting on their line to rebound this year to help protect their new franchise quarterback and open up rushing lanes for him and Jonathan Taylor. For that to happen, Kelly’s play on the field needs to be on par.

Kelly and Moore II’s impact on the 2023 season is another Ballard decision to keep an eye on.

Not rehauling the offensive line

It was just one year ago when analysts had concerns about Ballard not electing to bring on a veteran for the left tackle and right guard spot on the offensive line. The critics ended up being right with the unit falling flat on their faces to begin the 2022 season and both players that started in those spots in the opener ended up being replaced down the line.

Even though they improved by the end of the year, it felt like there needed to be some change to one of the most expensive offensive lines in the NFL. There was the Ryan Kelly trade talk as I mentioned but also the need for competition for the right guard spot and a veteran swing tackle.

Kelly ended up sticking on the roster, the Colts went with a rookie in Blake Freeland to be their swing tackle. Outside of UDFA rookie Emil Ekiyor Jr., there isn’t much competition for Will Fries’ right guard spot.

There is still time for Ballard to sign a free agent to the group, but the decision to not reconstruct the offensive line will influence the 2023 season. Will the veterans perform at the expected level that their contracts say they should? Do Bernhard Raimann and Will Fries take the next step in their development?

With the offense likely leaning into the rushing ability of Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor this year, the Colts’ offensive line has to get back to being considered one of the best in the league. Plus, it would help keep their first-round quarterback healthy.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire

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