Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) throws a 64 yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton (not pictured) in the fourth quarter Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Kansas City 45-44. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts Pre-Season Analysis: Andrew Luck

One of the NFL’s most intriguing young players returns for year three in the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. Andrew Luck, perhaps the top young gun quarterback in the league, is looking to improve on a stellar 2013 season that resulted in Luck’s first career playoff win.

A player known for improving as time goes on, Luck will look to increase a 60.2 completion percentage (a six percent increase from the previous year) and will strive to compete against the powerhouses of the AFC. The third-year pro showed he could play with the top opponents in 2013, showing strong ability in wins against the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos, capping the season off with a victory over the Chiefs in the playoffs while also posting a perfect 6-0 record against rival AFC South divisional opponents.

Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

At 6’4” and 239 lbs, Luck is more than a polished arm at the quarterback position. Described as the “the best quarterback prospect since John Elway,” by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Luck combines his ability to complete passes on the field with his high football IQ and general smarts while playing football (score of 37 on the Wonderlic Test) and general athleticism. Luck flaunted big numbers while at Stanford and posted an impressive 4.67s 40-yard dash time at the combine making him the most coveted player in the 2012 draft.

Luck has one of the most beautiful deep balls in the NFL. Having a speedster receiver like T.Y. Hilton to get open on long streak routes helps turn Luck’s deep throws into touchdowns. He has astounding proficiency in the pocket when his offensive line gives him time. Luck also has the ability to create big play situations on the deep pass with the defense in his face. In addition to being able to get the ball downfield, Luck has shown growth in discernment in his throws and makes smarter deep-throw decisions (nine INTs in 2013 in comparison to 18 in 2012).

Another part of Luck’s game is the ability to move around in the pocket and to escape pressure. He possesses Roethlisberger-esque skills to escape pressure (and due to a patchwork offensive line, he has a lot of it) to bolster his quick vertical speed that helps scramble for first downs. He always has a knack for extending the play, whether it’s scrambling for the first or completing a pass out of a roll-out. Luck’s large frame also allows him time after contact, whether he wishes to remain upright to throw the ball or vault himself forward for an extra few yards.

Perhaps Luck’s most important aspect on offense is his unprecedented ability to keep the Colts in the game despite a fourth quarter deficit. Luck owns the NFL record for most fourth quarter comebacks in a quarterback’s first two seasons with 10 regular season comebacks in his young career according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, along with the gargantuan comeback against the Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs. Luck lives for the fourth quarter, often posting huge numbers. Luck has the third best fourth quarter quarterback rating (74.9), trailing just Peyton Manning (86.5) and Aaron Rodgers (76.5).

Even the greatest quarterbacks have their weaknesses, and Andrew Luck is certainly no exception. Every weakness that luck possesses can be seen in the two playoff games against the Chiefs and Patriots in the 2014 playoffs. Despite an incredible comeback against the Chiefs, Luck looked absolutely miserable in the first half and the beginning of the third quarter. His interceptions were untimely, and the ball wasn’t getting in the correct spots. Yes, he led the second greatest playoff comeback of all-time, but he should not have had to.

The entire performance of the New England Patriots’ defense against Luck defined his areas of needed improvement. Luck was doing fine in the first few quarters before getting rattled by the New England defense (three sacks, 10 quarterback hits). While Luck performs well under pressure, it’s often the second sack that derails his confidence. The sacks led to the young quarterback wanting to get the ball out quickly, which led to interceptions that could have easily been avoided. If there’s any speed bump to get over this season, it’s the New England Patriots.

This off-season spells nothing but good things for Andrew Luck. With a high-profile free agent acquisition in Hakeem Nicks, a new young receiver to throw around to (third-rounder Donte Moncrief) and a healthy (and hopefully improved) backfield, Luck has all the tools he needs to be an elite quarterback in the league.

Tags: Andrew Luck Donte Moncrief Hakeem Nicks Indianapolis Colts T.Y. Hilton

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