'We're coming after him': Titans gear up to face dynamic Colts rookie QB Richardson

Whiteboard Wednesday Wk 5. Titans  vs. Colts. Tyjae Spears in cheat motion (2:17)

Whiteboard Wednesday Wk 5. Titans  vs. Colts. Tyjae Spears in cheat motion is eventually going to lead to a big gain. Here's how: Video by Turron Davenport (2:17)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson spent a full day in Nashville on a pre-draft visit with the Tennessee Titans in April. Titans coach Mike Vrabel recalled how engaging Richardson was and said the visit went great.

The Titans didn't get a chance to select the No. 4 pick in April's draft, as the Colts took Richardson seven picks before Tennessee was on the clock, where it opted for offensive tackle Peter Skoronski at No. 11.

Now, Richardson is currently one of two AFC South rookie quarterbacks whom Tennessee will face this season as the Titans (2-2) head to Lucas Oil Field for Sunday's Week 5 matchup (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Stopping Richardson and the Colts (2-2) will be a big-time challenge in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-4, 244-pound quarterback has four rushing touchdowns (despite having to exit in the first half of Week 2 after suffering a concussion that caused him to miss Week 3 as well), tying him with the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson for the most among quarterbacks, and he has thrown for three touchdowns as well.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Richardson is the first quarterback to have four rushing touchdowns over his first three games. All four of them have come from inside the 20-yard line, helping the Colts post a 72.7% (third in the NFL) red zone scoring rate.

"It makes you defend everybody," Vrabel said of Richardson running in the red zone. "If it's a run action, somebody's got a responsibility for the quarterback. Somebody's got a responsibility for the two receivers they release and throws they can make off of it."

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was the most popular player comparison for Richardson during the draft process. Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting faced Newton multiple times when he was in the same division as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Although Murphy-Bunting said he doesn't like to compare players, he definitely sees similarities.

"The sky's the limit for Anthony Richardson, just the same as it was for Cam Newton," Murphy-Bunting said. "The size, the capability, the athleticism is all accurate. But I think the structure -- a lot of the [run-pass option] style offense utilizes his skill set, so they're similar in that way."

Murphy-Bunting pointed to designed run plays for Richardson as reasons being disciplined is critical when defending him.

The main thing the Titans want to do is make him run horizontally to keep him from getting up the field. Outside linebacker Arden Key said Indianapolis uses Richardson on a lot of "college-type stuff" like read-options and speed-options, so the guys up front have to cash in when given the opportunity to bring Richardson down -- which Tennessee struggled to do against Deshaun Watson in its 27-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3.

"[Richardson] likes to extend plays, reminds me of Deshaun Watson when he gets out of the pocket," defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. "You gotta make sure you get him to the ground because even when you have him wrapped up he tries to make throws."

The Titans boast the fourth-best run defense (allowing only 70 yards per game) heading into Week 5, but Simmons feels the pass rush has to be on the same page to limit Richardson's running and passing opportunities. Like Watson, sometimes Richardson scrambles to keep plays alive so receivers have more time to get open.

"You have to cover for longer than what you anticipate," Murphy-Bunting said. "Usually in a play you cover for like four seconds. But with him extending plays, sometimes you have to cover for more than five seconds. So you plaster to your man."

Defensive coordinators normally try to blitz a rookie quarterback in hopes of pressing him to make a mistake. The Titans plan to mix blitzes with disguised coverages behind them, giving Richardson one look before the snap, then changing to another once he gets the ball.

Titans safety Kevin Byard warned against repetitively blitzing the house against Richardson because "he's super strong" and can break tackles before "launching the ball 70 yards down the field."

A good example of that came last week against the Los Angeles Rams when future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Aaron Donald had his hands on Richardson and he was still able to complete a 38-yard pass to Alec Pierce.

Even though Richardson presents a significant threat, the Titans plan to go at him.

"It's not like we're going against [the] Philadelphia [Eagles] and [quarterback] Jalen Hurts where you have to mush rush," Key said. "He's a rookie, we're coming after him. We just have to be well-orchestrated on our rush lanes."

Shane Steichen is in his first year as the coach of the Colts, but he has some familiarity with the Titans, as he faced them last season as the offensive coordinator for the Eagles.

"They have a heck of a front," Steichen said. "I mean, a really, really good front. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us, but one we’re looking forward to."

NFL Nation reporter Stephen Holder contributed to this report.