Ready or not, Trent Richardson's time is now.
That was the message sent by the Indianapolis Colts on Friday when the team announced seventh-year running back Ahmad Bradshaw will miss today's game at Jacksonville because of a neck injury. Former starter Donald Brown will see some playing time to give Richardson a rest.
But head coach Chuck Pagano made it clear the former Alabama star will be asked to increase his workload in just his second game since being traded by the Cleveland Browns.
"He's got no choice," Pagano said. "He's got no choice. Those guys have done a great job. (Running backs coach) David Walker is a great football coach and a great teacher. He did an unbelievable job getting Trent ready for last Sunday, and he'll do the same for this week. Between him and Donnie and the rest of the crew, we'll go down there and hopefully get the job done."
Coming off a 179-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers, the Colts' rushing game is facing a Jaguars defense that has allowed 503 yards on the ground — the most in the NFL this season.
Richardson said he's been buried in his playbook since arriving in Indianapolis on Sept. 18, and he'll lean on quarterback Andrew Luck and Brown to help answer any in-game questions. He played in a similar scheme with the Browns and rushed for 35 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries in his Colts debut last week.
"I've been learning the game plan every day and sticking my face in that playbook two hours after practice, an hour before practice, at the meetings and stuff," Richardson said. "I've been studying hard. So I feel like that workload, I'm ready to go for it. Whenever it's time they call on my name, I'm going to be ready to go."
Indianapolis (2-1) is hoping it can say the same as a team.
The Jaguars (0-3) stunned the Colts last season at Lucas Oil Stadium with a late score in a 22-17 victory. It was one of just two victories on the season for Jacksonville, and it ultimately cost 11-5 Indianapolis the AFC South championship.
In part as a reminder of that slip-up, Pagano left mouse traps throughout the locker room this week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. The message was unmistakable: Don't get caught overlooking this opponent.
"Oh, we definitely respect them," Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "They're a division opponent. They know us, we know them. It's always a hard-fought battle. We definitely are not taking them lightly. We're respecting them, just as you should any NFL team."
Among the chief reasons for that respect, Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew. A notorious Colts killer, he did not play in Indianapolis' 27-10 road victory last season.
During the Jaguars' upset victory at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jones-Drew rushed 28 times for 177 yards and a key touchdown that got the team back into the contest early in the second half.
He's been hobbled this season with an ankle injury and officially is listed as questionable for today's game. But he's been playing through the injury and leads Jacksonville with 115 rushing yards through three games.
The Colts, as usual, expect nothing but his best.
"He's built like a fire hydrant, runs like a shorebird," Pagano said. "Tree trunks for legs, never stops churning, powerful, powerful guy. We know what type of runs he excels at. Our guys are fully aware of what he can do, and we got to do a great job and be disciplined on defense. Everybody's got to be on the same page, and then we got to gang tackle. We got to get as many hats on him as we possibly can."
The job won't be as easy without defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois — who is out with a groin injury suffered last week — and safety LaRon Landry — who will miss his second straight contest with an ankle injury.
Delano Howell — who had four sacks and two pass deflections in his first NFL start against the 49ers — likely will go again in place of Landry. Fili Moala or Ricardo Matthews will start in place of Jean Francois.
Indianapolis expects to have all of its offensive weapons except Bradshaw. And wide receiver Reggie Wayne, in particular, has enjoyed playing Jacksonville over the years.
He has 1,856 receiving yards and averages 14 yards per catch against the Jaguars for his career. But the only thing Wayne is concerned with today is a victory against an AFC South rival.
"We know if we take care of the division, it guarantees us a spot in the playoffs," he said. "You want to crawl before you can walk. So we want to take our division. We know that division games, basically they count double because it's a division opponent and it's also an AFC opponent. We want to make sure we take care of that first."
Ready or not, Trent Richardson's time is now.
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