It is not an accident that NFL draft scouts have been super high on Anthony Richardson. When he is at his best, the Florida football QB can scan the field, set his feet, and deliver passes on time far better than the majority of college QBs. This is on top of him being one of the most athletic people on this planet and being able to break off 40-yard runs if opposing defenses dare to turn their back and play man coverage.
But halfway through his first season as a full-time starter, there is a couple of unfortunate truths that have emerged with Richardson:
- He is inconsistent
- He is turnover prone
His consistency all comes down to his mechanics.
Florida football: Every day on a winding road
Let’s first focus on Richardson when he is on. Part of why Florida football fans kept calling for him to play over Emory Jones last year is because he could do things Jones could only dream of. Forget the running component of their games, Richardson threw deep balls that didn’t require Gator receivers to turn around to catch them as Jones did. Richardson was able to plant his back foot in the ground and have the ball out of his hand before the receiver had even turned his head. Richardson was capable of going through progressions and didn’t just lock onto one receiver before the play.
So even if Richardson never ran the ball, he has demonstrated flashes of all the tools needed to stay in the pocket and still be an effective passer. But the ability to run the ball seems to give Richardson confidence in his passing game.
We all know how effective Richardson was against Utah. Part of that is because Utah played a decent amount of man-to-man, which gave Richardson a safety valve to run if he didn’t like what he saw in coverage.
Then Kentucky came to town and played a lot of zone defense. It shouldn’t have been a problem because even though it took away Richardson’s ability to run, Florida had open receivers on routes we have seen Richardson hit.
Except he didn’t.
Richardson had an abysmal game, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t making the correct reads (not counting the Nay’Quan Wright target that led to the fatal pick-six) or because he was presented with throws he couldn’t make. Richardson didn’t set his feet against Kentucky, didn’t keep his posture upright, and didn’t drive through throws and as a result, missed multiple throws we have seen him make before.
Without the ability to run when plays broke down, it felt like Richardson panicked and looked like a complete shell of himself.
USF was a similar story. A handful of quality throws when his mechanics were in order, but then some really poor ones (including the goal-line interception on the fade attempt to Justin Shorter) when they were not.
With the entire country doubting Richardson and calling Florida football’s opening win against Utah a fluke, Richardson flipped a switch and threw for 453 yards and once again looked like a first-round draft pick. It should also be noted though that Richardson had the green light to run in this game and didn’t look panicked as plays broke down.
Eastern Washington is Eastern Washington, but his opening touchdown throw once again flashed what is able to do that Jones could never do. Richardson set his feet, drove through the throw, and allowed Shorter to catch the ball in stride.
Florida football: Protect the football
It is futile to look at Richardson’s passing numbers from Missouri. Florida football found success running the ball and only threw it 14 times off of 44 offensive plays. But his six passes in the second half showcase the duality Richardson has showcased so far.
His rollout touchdown pass to Ricky Pearsall was a high-level throw that required multiple moving parts to be for the football to arrive at Pearsall’s arms at the back of the endzone.
His late-game interception was a byproduct of not setting his feet, throwing out of rhythm, and sailing a throw that should have been a first down in the chest of Pearsall. Was the pocket collapsing around him? To an extent, but it wasn’t a throw that he should have missed.
Beyond his 55% completion percentage, which isn’t even among the top 100 in the country, it has been Richardson’s inability to protect the football this season at key moments that have cost Florida football this year. With seven interceptions already, Richardson has thrown the fifth-most picks in the country.
If he was just a run-first quarterback with high school-level mechanics, most Gator fans could chalk it up to a lack of talent.
But Anthony Richardson has shown in flashes he can be so much more than that and with consistency, there is zero reason he couldn’t be a hall-of-fame quarterback in the NFL. But he must be okay with staying in the pocket as needed and not falling apart when he doesn’t have the option to run.