For Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck The Next Step is Consistency

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Andrew Luck has been very impressive so far this season and has exceeded expectations. He has been inconsistent at times, however, which means that the next step in his development is to become more consistent.

Rookie quarterbacks have taken the NFL by storm this year. Russell Wilson in Seattle; Ryan Tannehill in Miami; and Brandon Weeden in Cleveland (whom the Colts just beat on Sunday); and of course the simply electrifying Robert Griffin III with Washington. That list doesn't even include the first overall pick in the most recent draft - Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

Luck arrived in the crossroads of America when the city itself, and the organization it loves, were at a crossroads. Just a month earlier, they had released the greatest athlete in the history of the city - the man who put them on a map, got them a Lombardi trophy, a fancy new stadium, and brought the super bowl to town. Gone. Why? Quite simply because he was hurt, and after missing the entire 2011 season the Colts were in a position to secure a "can't miss" franchise quarterback for the next decade. The decision, from a pure football standpoint, was easy - to release Peyton Manning. The situation Luck walked into, however, was anything but easy.

The rookie from Stanford inherited a team and an organization in shambles; having recently undergone a massive overhaul larger than just releasing the legendary QB. Longtime general manager Bill Polian? Gone. Head coach Jim Caldwell? Gone. The talent around him? Well, let's just say there was a reason the Colts finished a league-worst 2-14 a year ago.

Then add in this year the loss of starting wide receiver Austin Collie for the year, a constant shuffling of the offensive line, not much of a running game, and coach Chuck Pagano being hospitalized, and the situation becomes much harder for Luck.

And yet somehow, he has managed to exceed expectations. Not only have the Colts won more games in his first six games (three) than they did all of last year, but Luck has thrown for 1,674 yards and seven touchdowns and has rushed for three more (including two to lead the Colts to a win over the Browns Sunday). His immeasurable have been spectacular. He is already running the no-huddle offense, and running it well at that. It seems as if he runs for as many yards as he throws for on every pass attempt - that is, it seems as if most of the time he is running for his life due to the collapsed line. Luck has been under constant duress, and through that he has displayed a pocket presence and calm unheard of for a guy his age. Don't blame all the pressure Luck has faced on the offensive line - Luck has to learn to throw it away instead of hanging onto the football too long - but safe to say the line has not been helping their quarterback out much.

The problem that has plagued the Colts this year has been their inconsistency - they have yet to put two complete halves of football together. The same has been true of their quarterback. In fact, he has not scored in both halves of a football game yet this year. In six of the twelve halves of football Luck has played this year his passer rating is higher than that of his season total (72.32), which obviously means that the same number of times his passer rating for a half has been lower than his season number. The Jacksonville loss in week three highlights the disparity between halves. In the first half of that game, Luck threw for two touchdowns without a pick and posted a 109.8 passer rating. In the second half, however, Luck and the offense managed only 3 points, Luck was intercepted, he posted only a 49.52 passer rating. The Cleveland game on Sunday showed the trend once again. In the first half, Luck posted a solid 80.1 passer rating (granted, it does not factor in his two rushing touchdowns) while in the second half his passer rating dropped to 66.1.

Andrew Luck first half versus second half (through six games 2012)

First Half

Second Half

Comp

66

68

Att

114

136

%

57.8%

50.0%

Yards

821

853

YPA

7.2

6.3

TD

4

3

TD %

3.51%

2.21%

INT

2

5

INT %

1.75%

3.68%

Rushing

11-71-2

9-44-1

RYPA

6.45

4.89

Points

68

49

A simple indicator of consistency is completion percentage. On the season, Luck has completed 53.6 percent of his passes - ranking 32nd out of 33 players who qualify (Mark Sanchez is the only one below him). However, looking at the percentage of passes thrown deep (where the intended receiver is at least fifteen yards down the field), Luck currently ranks fourth with 26.4% of his passes thrown "deep". Of the top eight players in that category, none have a completion percentage greater than 60%. Luck has been throwing the ball deep very frequently this season (which is noticeable when watching film as well) and that has brought his completion percentage down (in case you were wondering, RG3 ranks first in completion percentage but last in passes attempted 15 yards or more down field). Also, his only two halves of the year in which he has not completed at least half of his passes are two of the three highest pass attempt numbers in any half (the other he completed just over half with 51.9%).

The last issue of consistency we will look at is the huge disparity between Luck's numbers at home versus on the road. For starters, at home he has completed 55.28% of his passes at home versus 50.56% on the road, and then he has actually averaged 294.5 yards per game (2 games) on the road while only averaging 271.25 yards per game at home. After that, however, the stats get much different. At home he has thrown a touchdown on 3.7% of his throws and an interception on just 1.24% of them, but on the road, his touchdown percentage drops to just 1.12% while his interception percentage jumps all the way up to 5.62%. The Colts as a team are averaging six points less on the road versus at home (21.0 PPG at home versus 15.0 PPG on the road). Luck has scored ten touchdowns on the year, and nine of them have come at home (granted, the Colts have played four home games versus just two road games, but still the difference is glaringly evident). The Colts as a team are 3-1 at home and 0-2 on the road. This upcoming weekend they travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans, and added to the fact that the winner is in second place in the division, the game is a big one because the Colts need to show they can play well on the road.

Andrew Luck home versus away (through six games 2012)

Home

Away

Games Played

4

2

Comp

89

45

Att

161

89

%

55.28%

50.56%

Yards

1,085

589

YPA

6.74

6.62

YPG

271.25

294.5

TD

6

1

TD %

3.7%

1.12%

INT

2

5

INT %

1.24%

5.62%

Rushing

17-107-3

3-8-0

RYPA

6.29

2.67

Points

84

30

PPG

21

15

W-L

3-1

0-2

Andrew Luck has been incredibly impressive this year. He has the Colts at 3-3 and in second place in the AFC South despite tough circumstances and has shown his excellent pocket presence and mobility, as well as his composure in big situations. The first overall draft pick has not failed to meet expectations - in fact, he has exceeded them. The next step in his adjustment to the National Football League is to become more consistent. His predecessor is regarded as the most consistent player in league history, so fans will expect that from Luck. More consistency will come, but it will take time. And once that consistency does come, the sky is the limit for the Colts and their franchise quarterback.

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