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14 for '14 Number 1: Quarterback Andrew Luck

In the 14 days leading up to the Indianapolis Colts reporting for training camp on July 23, we will count down the 14 most important players to the Colts success in 2014. Today, we look at number 1, Andrew Luck.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This article needs no explanation.  All I needed to do was say that Andrew Luck was number one on the list and everyone would nod their heads in agreement.  There's really no doubt about this one, and while the others on this list were subject to disagreement, this one isn't.  Andrew Luck is far and away the most important player to the Colts success in 2014 (and 2015, and 2016, and so on...).

Yesterday I mentioned how Andrew Luck is being widely praised by analysts, and one of the most common arguments you will hear for why that is (why, for instance, several people are already ranking Luck as a top five quarterback) is because they consider that Luck is doing most of it himself.  They don't view the Colts team as that great but rather an average (or below average) team with a very good quarterback.  That's the perception around the league, and in this article we're going to examine that belief a bit.

Offensively, the Colts have weapons - there's no doubt about that.  Entering this season the Colts have Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen as receiving threats and then three talented backs in Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard, and Ahmad Bradshaw.  The Colts have one of the best, if not the best, receiving talent in the league, so Luck is helped out immensely in that aspect.  But first, consider that last year the depth was much less, adding to the perception that Luck was basically doing it all.  Reggie went down mid-season and Allen missed nearly the entire year.  Nicks and Moncrief weren't around, and instead unproven guys like Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers, and LaVon Brazill were left playing big roles.  Richardson stunk and Ballard and Bradshaw both missed most of the season.  As deep as the receiver position is for the Colts this year, the depth at the position last year was just as thin down the stretch.

The offensive line still is a question mark, but it should be much improved from last year.  Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn are no longer with the team, and Hugh Thornton (who was bad last year) is entering his second year with experience under his belt, so the hope is that he'll be much improved too.  But in 2012-2013 for sure, the Colts offensive line was bad and if it weren't for Luck breaking tackles and scrambling, the sack number would have been insanely high.  As it was, the number of hits he took already was.  Hopefully both of those numbers will continue to go down this year, but the line was bad the past two years.

As for the defense, the unit has improved in the two years with Luck as quarterback, but they still aren't that good and last year hurt the team - most notably in the playoff loss to the Patriots, when the run defense completely was, well, run over.  The defense hasn't done Luck many favors in his first two years.

Look, by all accounts this should be the best team the Colts have had with Andrew Luck at quarterback.  But it's still not a playoff team without Luck - no way.  For a team with clear Super Bowl expectations this season, those hopes all ride on the shoulders of number 12.  Say all you want about how they need to build the team better than they did in the Peyton Manning Era and not place everything on the quarterback, but in today's NFL, this is just the way it works.  The quarterback is expected to carry the team.  For many teams, this creates a problem, but for those with good quarterbacks it can be a benefit.  The Colts have a really good quarterback, and the bottom line is that they will go as far as Andrew Luck takes them.  They can get to and win the Super Bowl this year, but the only way they even have a chance is with Luck at the helm, leading and carrying the team.  There's no discussion about this one - Andrew Luck is easily the most important player to the Colts in 2014.

Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:

14. Pat McAfee, punter

13. Anthony Castonzo, left tackle

12. Greg Toler, cornerback

11. Reggie Wayne, wide receiver

10. Cory Redding, defensive lineman

9. Dwayne Allen, tight end

8.  Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker

7. Arthur Jones, defensive lineman

6. LaRon Landry, safety

5. Jerrell Freeman, inside linebacker

4. Robert Mathis, outside linebacker

3. T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver

2. Vontae Davis, cornerback

1. Andrew Luck, quarterback