The Andrew Luck era has officially kicked off and it do so with a huge bang. Multiple, huge bangs, actually.
Right out of the gate, Luck found his big league groove in the best way possible: scoring a 63-yard touchdown on a textbook screen to Donald Brown. Kudos to Bruce Arians for opening the game with this call, if I might add. At first glance, the play looked like Brown had missed a block (Damn it, Donald!), but everything was executed perfectly and this was just a sneak peak of what was to come. Luck called it "the easiest touchdown pass of his life."
The pocket presence. The reads. The ball placement. The underrated athleticism. The maturity.
Luck’s debut was, well, beautiful.
Yes, it was the lowly, rebuilding Rams, and yes, it was the preseason, but the intangibles of a rookie that was picked to lead this franchise were absolutely brought to the forefront in his Colts debut. The calmness and control that Luck had over his offense was something that was missing from even the most experienced quarterbacks in this first week of preseason play. Luck was admittedly nervous, but it certainly didn't show. Impressive.
Despite three miscues from Luck’s receivers, it couldn’t have gone much more perfect for the rookie, or the fans of Indianapolis for that matter. The Colts charged through the Rams on offense (and defense) and the fans subsequently lost their voices before the final seconds of the first half even ticked away.
Austin Collie was Luck’s premiere target, catching three balls (five targets) for 45 yards and a touchdown. Among the intense excitement, it was especially beautiful to watch Luck weed through busted coverage to find Collie for a 20-yard score. In 2010, Collie was on his way to becoming one of the best slot guys in the game—the next Wes Welker was a trendy term that year. And in this game, the chemistry between these two was evident and it was incredibly refreshing. Finally, the real Austin Collie has all of the pieces to have that huge year that he’s overdue for.
Comparisons can quickly turn annoying, especially for a guy like Luck. Forever, he’s been dubbed the next Peyton Manning. I hate to say it, so know that I’m sorry and please forgive me, but Luck made throws and displayed footwork that almost made me think I was watching a retro clip of a young #18. Specifically, a 12-yard stick to rookie T.Y. Hilton that had me absolutely drooling. This is precisely what Manning is known for—throwing his receivers open—and no one has done it better. Luck also dropped a beautiful pass down the middle to, wait for it... Quan Cosby, which was a throw that he made practically every Saturday. Hilton also made a fantastic catch, giving us a small glimpse into the talent that he brings along with his ridiculous speed. That said, I think Hilton will ultimately be a big, big part of this offense.
All of that pleasantly considered, it is the preseason and we’re only one preseason game into the new era of the young and inexperienced new-look Colts. The offensive line was shaky at best (I was scared for Luck a few times), and if Luck is going to survive to be the next superstar in the NFL, he's going to have to get rid of the ball fast. Really fast.
This team will take their lumps. Luck will take his lumps. And it won’t always be this fun, but as Ryan Grigson stated ala Dennis Green, Luck was who we thought he was: a stud, prototypical quarterback.
The hype machine has been cranked up to full speed and Luck jerseys will be selling like hotcakes. Yet, through all of the excitement, it's important to keep this performance in perspective. He’s not Peyton Manning, and he may never come close to reliving the success that Manning has made synonymous with the Colts brand, but damn it, he looked good.
Monstrous, if you will.