WESTFIELD — Anthony Richardson was feeling it on Saturday night.
Forced into Grand Park’s indoor facility by the thunderstorms rolling through central Indiana, Richardson turned in the best practice of his Colts career, making the kinds of big plays in the passing game that had been hard to come by through the first six practices of camp.
Richardson completed 9 of 11 passes, tossed two touchdowns and showed what his arm strength can do when the accuracy’s on point.
The rookie worked with the second-team offense Saturday, ceding first-team snaps to Gardner Minshew after back to back practices with the starters earlier this week. Indianapolis opened the practice by splitting the two units and running six plays simultaneously.
Richardson came out firing. The rookie opened the practice with a rollout completion to Juwann Winfree, ripped off a long scramble on the next snap, then bought a little time and fired off his back foot downfield to Kody Case, the ball settling into an open Case’s hands just underneath the coverage.
He kept it rolling. Amari Rodgers, a former third-round pick the Colts signed off the street earlier this week, took the next throw and ran away from the entire secondary down the left sideline into the end zone. Richardson followed the touchdown with a deep in to Breshad Perriman, then rolled out and hit Winfree again on an out.
The No. 4 pick in the draft has offered glimpses like that before.
This time, he kept it rolling. Richardson completed two nice passes to fellow rookie Josh Downs on the next series, then finished his day by firing a touchdown pass to tight end Drew Ogletree in the red zone period. On one of his two incompletions, it appeared the misfire was the result of a mistake by wide receiver Mike Strachan, based on the way coaches responded after the play.
“He was solid,” Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen said. “I’ve got to go back and watch the film, but he made some good plays, made a good check, did some good things, had a good throw to ‘Tree down in the red zone.”
For the first time since last November, Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard was on the field for full-contact work in 11-on-11, and even though the team’s plan called for Leonard to play a limited amount of snaps, he said it felt good to be cleared.
Physically, getting cleared for full contact was the final hurdle Leonard faced.
To be the Maniac again, Leonard believes he still needs to see more formations, more plays.
But he likes what he sees from himself on tape. When Leonard was injured last season, he often felt like he was watching a different player on tape; he’s starting to see a player who looks like the four-time All-Pro.
“I’m starting to see somebody that resembles the guy that I used to know,” Leonard said. “I’m building more confidence, I’m shooting through gaps, getting in windows, stuff like that. That’s who I want to see on film, and that’s what I’m happy to see right now.”
Big plays from small receivers
Downs, the team’s third-round pick from North Carolina, has started making an impact on the practice field.
The rookie hauled in two catches from Richardson in 11-on-11, then made a few more plays in the team’s first 7-on-7 period, breaking away from defensive backs, getting open for catches over the middle and showcasing his toughness, refusing to back down when a defender got in his face after one play.
Rodgers, who faces an uphill battle as a slot receiver on a team that already has Downs and veteran Isaiah McKenzie, made another play later in the practice, taking a similar short throw from Sam Ehlinger and racing down the left sideline into the end zone for another touchdown.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who injured his foot during Thursday’s practice, did not practice Saturday, but Indianapolis does not appear to be concerned about the long-term implications of the injury.
“He’s just dealing with the foot,” Steichen said. “We’re just going to progress that and see where he’s at.”
The daily grind of training camp is beginning to take its toll.
Tight end Mo Alie-Cox (ankle), cornerback Kenny Moore II (ankle), rookie tight end Will Mallory (hamstring), linebacker Cameron McGrone (unknown) and Buckner joined a list of injuries that already included running back Zack Moss (arm), defensive end Samson Ebukam (hamstring), tight end Jelani Woods (hamstring) and linebacker Liam Anderson (arm/shoulder).
Running back Jonathan Taylor and defensive end Tyquan Lewis remain on the active/physically unable to perform list.
But the Colts did get some good news on the injury front. One practice after getting back fifth-round cornerback Darius Rush, Indianapolis got back the services of second-round pick JuJu Brents, who hasn’t practiced since he was drafted due to an offseason wrist injury and a hamstring injury at the beginning of training camp.
“His first NFL practice, I know he’s been grinding to get back out there,” Steichen said. “It’s good to see.”
Minshew took the first-team snaps and completed 9 of 12 throws, including a scrambling play where he found Alec Pierce downfield for a play that looked like a touchdown. … Free safety Rodney Thomas II blew up wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a short throw near the line of scrimmage. … Colts linebacker Segun Olubi has made highlight plays throughout training camp with his aggression and physicality, and he laid two big hits on rookie running back Evan Hull Saturday night, adding to his list of head-turning plays. … Rookie cornerback Jaylon Jones broke up a pass in the developmental 7-on-7 period the Colts often run at the end of practice. … Undrafted free agent safety Michael Tutsie came flying into the backfield and nearly picked off a screen from Ehlinger.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts camp: Rookie QB Anthony Richardson turns in best day so far