INDIANAPOLIS – Mo knows quarterbacks.
Lots of ‘em.
Since being signed as an undrafted rookie tight end – and former Virginia Commonwealth standout power forward – in May of 2017, Mo Alie-Cox has had a front-row seat for the Indianapolis Colts’ dizzying quarterback carousel.
OK, take a deep breath.
“Boy, this is year 7, so I’ve had seven different (opening-day) starters,’’ Alie-Cox said Friday. “Then we had (Brian) Hoyer. We had Sam (Ehlinger). (Scott) Tolzien was here.
“Man, it’s been a lot. Maybe 10 or 11 now.’’
He’s been here for Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien, Andrew Luck, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, Nick Foles and the Colts’ quarterback of the future, Anthony Richardson.
Gardner Minshew II makes it 11 Sunday when he settles behind backup center Wesley French against the Ravens at Baltimore’s M&T Stadium.
Richardson, along with center Ryan Kelly, were ruled out Friday. Both remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed a third consecutive practice.
Shane Steichen was noncommittal on whether his two offensive mainstays might return for the Oct. 1 meeting with the Los Angeles Rams in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Yeah, we’ll see,’’ he said. “They’re progressing. We’ll see how it goes.’’
Until Richardson gains clearance from the team’s medical staff and an independent neurologist, the Colts’ offense rests in the hands of Minshew. He had extensive work with the No. 1 offense during the preseason until Richardson was named the starter Aug. 15, and ran the first unit this week while the rookie watched practice.
“He looked like Gardner,’’ Steichen said. “Efficient, leading the crew, completing balls, understands the game plan.
“Locked in, ready to go.’’
That’s been the case since mid-March when Minshew signed a one-year, $3.5 million free-agent contract.
“Since day 1 before Anthony was even drafted and Gardner was here, we were all working with him,’’ Alie-Cox said. “He just commands the huddle. Once he steps in there, it’s an offense he’s been in. He was commanding in meetings also.
“When he gets on the field, he’s making all the checks. He sees the checks sometimes before we see them.’’
Minshew’s comfort with the offense is rooted in spending the past two seasons in Philadelphia in Steichen’s offense as Jalen Hurts’ backup. He understands what’s expected and delivers.
“When you see things like that from your quarterback, it just gives you confidence in him when he goes out there,’’ Alie-Cox said. “Look at last week – 19-of-23 or whatever it was and he led two drives right away.’’
“We all believe in him.’’
Richardson was the catalyst for the 31-20 win at Houston. He became the first Colt since Edgerrin James in 1999 to rush for two first-quarter touchdowns, but suffered a concussion on the second – a 15-yarder – when he was hit at the goal line and his head snapped against the turf.
Richardson stayed on the field for two more drives before self-reporting concussion symptoms.
That sent Minshew into the game and he finished what Richardson started. He led touchdown drives on his two second-quarter possessions, sending the Colts into halftime with a 28-10 lead. On the day, Minshew completed 19-of-23 passes for 171 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Kylen Granson.
While Minshew has earned the trust of his teammates, he possesses a contrasting style to Richardson. Steichen and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter have had to adjust the game plan accordingly.
“Gardner is a more traditional quarterback and that’s what we’ve had in years past,’’ Alie-Cox said. “I’m sure there will be less quarterback runs and stuff like that.
“But shoot, as an offense it’s our job to make him feel comfortable.’’
The Ravens had to divide their prep work between Richardson and Minshew until the Colts ruled out Richardson.
Now, they know.
“Well, Gardner Minshew has obviously proven he can win in this league,’’ Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Minshew has appeared in 34 games with 24 starts with Jacksonville, the Eagles and Colts. In week 15 of the 2020 season, he started against the Ravens in Baltimore and completed 22-of-29 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 120.8 rating.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
Baltimore sacked Minshew five times, including once in the end zone by Matthew Judon for a safety, and raced to a 26-0 lead enroute to a 40-14 victory.
“He’s a challenging quarterback,’’ Harbaugh said. “In that system, he’s really established himself with coach Steichen in Philadelphia, in terms of running that system well.
“He did it for a long stretch last year. We’ve watched a lot of him. We understand his game, and we’ll have our hands full, and we’ll have to be at our best to defend him.’’
More medical matters
Guard Quenton Nelson (toe) was a full participant Friday, but still is listed questionable for Sunday. He’s expected to play. He played at Houston after being limited in practice the week of the game.
“Yeah, just manage (the toe), but he’s always progressing well,’’ Steichen said. “He’s tough. He’s a tough football player. He’s the definition of tough.’’
Cornerbacks Kenny Moore II (knee) and Dallis Flowers (ankle) are questionable after being limited Friday. That was an upgrade for Moore, who did not practice Thursday.
Does Steichen anticipate Moore playing against Baltimore?
“That’s the plan,’’ he said.
The Ravens ruled out seven players: six starters and running back Justice Hill.
The starters: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Tyler Linderbaum, rush linebacker Odafe Oweh, safety Marcus Williams and cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.