In today’s NFL there are many different quarterbacking styles. On one side you have RG3, Russell Wilson, Michael Vick: a newer breed of players, who beat defenses with their legs. On the other side, you have Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees: gunslingers who beat defenses with their arms. Both styles are drastically different, both with advantages and disadvantages. Combine the two, and well, you get Andrew Luck. Unlike many other quarterbacks in the league, he makes plays with both his arms and his legs. An underrated runner, Luck’s 2013 rushing average of 6.0 yds per carry topped Robert Griffin’s 5.7 yds per. At the same time, Luck picked apart defenses through the air; setting records along the way. A few of his passing records include: most passing yards by a quarterback through 2 seasons (with 8196), most 300 yard passing games as a rookie (6), and most impressively, the most passing yards by a player in a rookie season (4374).
Even considering his impressive achievements, Luck has not yet reached an elite quarterbacking level. In order for Luck to become great, he needs others around him to play and perform at a top level as well. He cannot continue to carry the Colts upon his back. There are many weak links in the Colts team that are limiting Luck and his potential. In my opinion the three things that are stopping him are the offensive line, running game, and the defense.
Offensive Line: In 2012 the offensive line in Indianapolis was awful, one of the worst in the league, resulting in Luck being sacked 41 times. In the 2012-2013 offseason GM Ryan Grigson spent big money trying to overhaul much of the offensive line. Although we saw an improvement (32 sacks in 2013), this number is still too high. Having a good offensive line is key not just to preventing injury, but also because it gives more time for the quarterback to release the ball thus make better decisions.
Running Game: Having a good running game is also crucial. It takes pressure off the quarterback. If you don’t have a good running game, defenses can zone in on your passing game making it harder on the QB. In 2012 Indianapolis ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing with 1671 total yds, an average of 3.8 yards per attempt, 11 TDs, and a mere 104.4 yds per game average. 2013 wasn’t much of an improvement. The Colts booked in at 20th in the league with: 1,743 total yds, 4.4 yds per carry average, 15 TDs, and 108.9 yds per game. The running game in Indy MUST improve to take the pressure off Luck.
Defense: Defense is another critical element. As the old saying goes, offense wins games, defense wins championships. And we all know that in order to be considered a great you must win championships. In 2012 Indianapolis defense ranked 21st in points given up, and 26th in yards given up. In 2013 these stats drastically improved (9th in points and 20th in yds) but the Colts struggled on other areas of the defense. For example, with just 42 sacks in all of 2013, they had trouble disrupting opposing quarterbacks. Keep in mind that an aging Robert Mathis accounted for more than 40% of these sacks. At 33 years of age and with a four game suspension to start 2014, his absence means getting pressure on QBs may be even more of a problem for the Colts this year. Also, the Colts defense failed to show up in big games, giving up a total of 87 points combined in the wild card and divisional playoff games. So, the Colts’ defense needs to step it up. In order for Luck to reach his potential he needs a strong top 10 defense that can produce turnovers and take pressure off the offense.
In conclusion, Andrew Luck has already achieved a lot. He has broken records while taking the worst team in the NFL and turning them into a solid 11-5 playoff team. A rare breed of player, Luck possesses both the intangibles and the athleticism to be a make plays as both a runner and passer. Only a couple other quarterbacks in the league have the ability to do this. The Colts must improve in a few distinct areas. These areas include upgrading the offensive line, defense, and running game. If they improve in these elements, I believe they will have what it takes to go from being a solid playoff team into an annual Super Bowl contender. They have taken strides to improve their weaknesses in this year’s draft and free agency period; the new players must step up. As fans, we should sit back and admire. We might just be watching a future NFL great develop.