WESTFIELD, Ind. – Anthony Richardson wants his Indianapolis Colts home debut to be as impressive as his last performance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Justin Fields will have a front row view — from the Bears sideline.
Even though Chicago coach Matt Eberflus has announced Fields won't play and Colts coach Shane Steichen hasn't said how much playing time his high-profile rookie will get, the two young quarterbacks will once again be all the rage this weekend, as they usually are.
“You've got to work because the guy who jumps the highest in the world, he’s still got to perfect his craft and keep trying to jump higher because somebody else is trying to jump higher,” Richardson said, explaining his work ethic after being named Indy's opening day starter earlier this week. “There is always somebody chasing me, trying to attack me, and I just try to grind every day and continue to perfect everything.”
The 21-year-old has been far from perfect in camp.
Sure, he's shown flashes of brilliance and delivered quite a pre-practice show Thursday night by effortlessly lobbing one 60-yard pass after another down the field as the Bears watched from the south end of the Grand Park complex in Westfield, Indiana. But Richardson has had some rookie moments, too, like the ill-advised throw Buffalo picked off last weekend.
Chicago drafted the former Ohio State quarterback with the No. 11 overall pick in 2021 and now, at age 24, Bears fans expect big things from Fields this season.
“I think he's right on pace and I think he was great (Thursday) with four touchdowns in seven-on-seven,” Eberflus said after the teams' second joint practice. “His rhythm and timing are getting better, and sometimes it's protection and breakdowns. It's not just him, it's the other 10 guys out there.”
Fields showed his coach enough Wednesday and Thursday to take this weekend off.
In those two practices, the capacity crowds could clearly see the similarities in the two quarterbacks.
While Richardson stands 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, Fields checks in at 6-3, 226. Both have big arms, are capable runners and their franchises have bet big on them providing long-term stability at a position that has been troublesome both teams.
Richardson went 6-7 and completed less than 55% of his throws as a college starter before the Colts selected him fourth overall in April's draft. What he needs to prove is he can consistently make the right reads, proper decisions and accurate throws after wowing scouts with what some called the most athletic workout by a quarterback in NFL scouting combine history the last time he was at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“He's showed great signs of improvement,” Steichen said. “I like the things he's done, and it’s an opportunity for him now to get a lot more reps with the ones going forward.”
Fields, meanwhile, enters his third season with a career completion percentage of 59.7%, nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns — 21 to 24, respectively — and he's been sacked 91 times in 28 career games. While he was better in his second season, it didn't quash the calls from some to trade Fields and start over after Chicago wound up with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Instead, general manager Ryan Poles traded the pick, believing Fields would improve on his 5-20 career record — in part because he'll be working the same head coach and offensive coordinator, Luke Getsy, for a second consecutive season. And keeping Fields upright is essential after he tied Russell Wilson for 55 sacks, the highest total in the league.
“It's not just him,” Eberflus said. “It's running routes correctly, it's protecting him the right way, giving him time and doing the things that help him become more efficient.”
Eberflus intends to spend the next couple of weeks searching for that solution before Chicago opens the season Sept. 10 against rival Green Bay.
Richardson, meanwhile, is trying to build momentum after two spirited practices in which he used his legs to challenge the Bears defense while also showing indications of progressing in the passing game.
“He made some good throws. Obviously, he had some really good runs in the zone-read game, and then he made some good throws along the way,” Steichen said. "There are things we’ve got to clean up, but excited about how he's played.”
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