What we can expect from him moving forward.
Leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, Stanford product Andrew Luck was considered one of the most coveted pro prospects in years. His size, athleticism, intangibles, and decision-making ability had evaluators salivating. Ultimately, the Indianapolis Colts selected Luck first overall in a no-brainer move. Despite the pressure of succeeding Peyton Manning, Luck excelled in his first season, breaking the rookie single-season passing record with 4,374 yards.
After a strong rookie campaign, Luck’s career trajectory remained on a steady incline the next two seasons. In 2014, he threw for 4,761 passing yards and led the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns. Indianapolis reached the AFC Championship game and it appeared Luck had established himself as a premier quarterback poised to put up big numbers each season.
The 2015 season wasn’t so kind to Luck, however. He threw seven interceptions in the first three games before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him and affected his play once he returned. Ultimately, a Week 9 kidney laceration ended Luck’s season prematurely. He finished the year with a 2-5 record and had career lows in touchdown-to-interception ratio and yards per attempt. NFL analysts and fans alike started to question if Luck was a true top-flight QB.
Luck silenced his critics in 2016, setting career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and QBR. Although the Colts missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record, Luck proved that 2015 was below his true standards.
Luck’s up and down performance the past few years begs the question: which Andrew Luck will we see going forward? His premier talent has always been apparent. Much of the answer lies with the players around him.
For most of Luck’s career, the Colts have featured lackluster talent. Former GM Ryan Grigson deserves most of the blame. After taking Luck with his first ever pick as GM, Grigson made mistake after mistake, failing to surround Luck with adequate players and holding the team back in the process. Grigson’s most notable blunders include drafting defensive end Björn Werner with a first round pick and trading away a first rounder for mega-bust Trent Richardson.
Luck’s shaky 2015 was due to the pressure of carrying the team himself. His tape shows him trying too hard to create, often times holding the ball for too long or making poor decisions when letting it go.
His numbers tell the same story. Luck averaged nearly 42 pass attempts per game in 2015, almost five more than his career average outside of that season. The Colts have always had a pass-heavy offense, but this spike in attempts shows they were often down in games, causing Luck to force the issue and make mistakes. It’s no surprise his interception percentage was at an all-time high in 2015.
Since that subpar season, Indianapolis has made positive strides with their player personnel. The team spent their 2016 first round pick on Center Ryan Kelly, who didn’t allow a single sack during his rookie season. Kelly’s pass protection will do wonders for Luck’s long-term success after dealing with interior line problems for most of his career.
Additionally, the Colts have made a concerted effort to improve their defense after finishing bottom eight in total defense the past two seasons. The team finally fired Grigson this offseason and brought in Chris Ballard, who had previously served as the Kansas City Chiefs Director of Football Operations. Ballard immediately stressed the importance of a strong defense. In his first draft, he used six of eight selections on defenders — none more notable than safety Malik Hooker, who miraculously fell to the team at pick 15.
#Colts 3rd round pick: Tarell Basham, edge rusher out of Ohio.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) April 29, 2017
Chris Ballard’s first three picks: Defense, defense, defense.
A bolstered defense should give Luck a few extra possessions and shorter fields. Most importantly, though, it will help keep the Colts from falling behind and forcing him to air it out to catch up. This will allow Luck to play his game without having to overcompensate for his defense.
Luck has found plenty of success as a pro, but one down season brought his consistency into question. In reality, this “new normal” isn’t actually that new. Luck already proved he could hang with the best QBs in the league. With an improved supporting cast and less weight on his shoulders, look for him to elevate his play even further and remain one of the NFL’s best.
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