By Corbin Smith
During his press conference in Indianapolis on Thursday, Pagano defined Richardson as a "rolling ball of butcher knives" and that the team didn't bring him on board to take up space on the sidelines.
Nobody else on the Colts roster will be under a bigger microscope this weekend than the newly-acquired all-purpose running back. The ex-Alabama star will be the team's starter in the backfield on Sunday, giving him less than five days to learn some of the Colts' offense and be ready to play against the 49ers. Richardson's ability to run the football, catch out of the backfield, and excel in pass protection will be a valuable asset to the Colts, but many wondered how much he would factor in to the game plan for this week with little preparation time. Pagano put these concerns immediately to rest, stating that the team didn't acquire him to "be the water boy" and he'd be set to start against San Francisco.
With Ballard out for the year and Ahmad Bradshaw being an injury risk, it's not surprising that Indianapolis plans to utilize Richardson as much as possible out of the gate. Jim Irsay traded away a coveted first-round pick for his services, so he'll be expected to contribute right away regardless of practice time. After seeing Seattle's Marshawn Lynch enjoy great success last week against a normally stout 49ers defense, Pep Hamilton would be smart to run the ball early and often on Sunday. If Richardson can break a few big runs early, it will open up opportunities for play action and could serve as an extra security blanket for keeping pressure off of Luck in passing situations. Considering the mediocre play up front to this point, anything to keep Luck upright remains a positive. As long as Indianapolis stays between the tackles and doesn't try to outrun a speedy San Francisco defense to the outside, the team can enjoy success in the run game this weekend.
Hamilton should also look to exploit San Francisco's over-aggressive tendencies by using Richardson as a receiver as well. Seattle didn't have great success passing the football last Sunday night, but on two different occasions, Lynch vacated the backfield and the 49ers completely ignored him as a receiver. In both situations, Russell Wilson hit Lynch for big plays, including one going for a literal walk-in touchdown. Based on film and tendencies, Harbaugh's team most likely wouldn't expect much out of the Colts running backs on pass plays other than staying in as extra blockers. Richardson gives Indianapolis options it didn't have prior to his arrival, and the coaches should look to take advantage of that right away regardless of how much practice time he has had with the club.