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Ones to Watch in AFC South: Andrew Luck

I thought long and hard about who to select here and then realised I was over thinking it. Much like with Deshaun Watson for the Houston Texans, all eyes will be on how Andrew Luck returns from injury for the Indianapolis Colts. Luck did not take to the field once in 2017 and only started throwing a football again recently. The Indianapolis offense has some interesting pieces, but as good as Jacoby Brissett was last season, their only real chance to compete is with Andrew Luck under center.

Will we see the Luck of old?

It is fair to say that Luck has had a bit of an up and down career at times. He peaked in 2014, where he had a touchdown percentage index (TD%+) of 123, with 100 being the league average. However, in 2015, he has an interception percentage index (INT%+) of 69. That year he only played seven games and was playing injured in a couple of those, so we can probably write that off somewhat. In all of his other four years as a starter he has never had a INT%+ below 98. That suggest that despite having somewhat of a gunslinger mentality at times he actually does a relatively good job of looking after the ball.

The question will be how much power Luck can get through the ball. We saw with Peyton Manning what happens when the power behind your throws is diminished. If Luck cannot fire the ball into tight windows or get the ball deep then it is going to be very hard for him to run a competent offense in 2018.

In addition to his skill passing, Luck has always been a fairly efficient runner of the ball, averaging five yards per rush in his career. However, coming off this injury you have to believe both he and the Colts do not want him running the ball regularly. A big part of Luck’s game at times has been being able to make first downs with his legs. If this is gone he is going to have to rely on his arm and his reads even more than before.

Does he have the weapons?

My initial answer is no he doesn’t really. Yes there are interesting guys, such as T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle and Marlon Mack, but after that there are a ton of questions. Eric Ebron is the backup tight end but he has struggled to kick on in Detroit. If he and Luck can get on the same page he could be a devastating redzone threat. However, we have already seen Luck’s track record with tight ends. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen failed to progress with Luck under center. Having seen those two on other teams it may just be that they are not very good tight ends but so far we haven’t exactly seen Ebron set the league on fire.

After T.Y Hilton the receiving depth chart is messy. Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are the recognisable names but beyond that it is a lot of no name receiving options. Luck will need to elevate those guys to competent levels if he and the Colts are to have success.

At running back things are equally bleak behind the interesting but unproven Marlon Mack. Robert Turbin has never really made an impression on the league but yet sits second on the depth chart. That does not say a lot for what the Colts have seen from Nyheim Hines or Jordan Wilkins so far in training camp. The Colts need someone other than Mack to make an impression in the backfield. Even if Mack steps up as a true #1 running back, many of the best backfields need a second guy to act as change of pace to have success. Having Luck under center may actually be a negative for these backs in some ways. Brissett’s speed opened up a lot of holes for those guys in the run game. However, having Luck under center should mean the defense cannot stack the box, opening up more space for the backs to exploit.

Can they protect him?

Protecting Luck has been a major issue in his career. Luck has often been battered in his career and the only reason his sack numbers are not worse is his ability to get the ball out of his hands or scramble for yards. The Colts added guard Quenton Nelson in the draft and he has looked a beast in training camp. Having a solid guy like Nelson in the middle will certainly help, but the Colts need the rest of the line to perform at the top of their game. If they do not then they could be regularly picking Luck up off the floor. Then it would become just a matter of time before he is struggling with yet more injuries.

Photo credit: Colts.com via Stampede Blue

Article written by:

I have been writing about football for a little under 10 years, covering it from both a real and a fantasy point of view. I got drawn into the sport by the high flying, explosive 2007 Patriots team and have been a fan of the sport ever since. My favourite things to write about are film breakdowns and the business elements of NFL teams, such as salary cap and draft picks.

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