Andrew Luck had a very impressive season in 2016. He amassed over 4,200 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His decision-making improved, strides were also made to avoid unnecessary hits.
Heading into 2017 Luck’s number one priority will be healing up from his off-season shoulder surgery. When he is medically cleared, the attention will be shifted to knocking the rust off and improving as a football player. I believe that Luck is very close to removing all doubt that he is an elite level quarterback, and that he will look to take important steps that will get him there as he prepares for the coming season.
Most analysts would still say that Luck needs to do a better job of taking care of the football. They aren’t wrong, but this is not his biggest fault as a player. The Colts offense contains tons of long-developing plays with receivers running deep down the field. Mix in below average offensive line play and it is expected that he will throw some interceptions.
With that being said, we will take a look at areas where Andrew can grow as a player and where the Colts can improve to take the next step in his young career.
- The Colts must give him more command of the offense - As Matt Danely pointed out, play-calling in Indianapolis has been questionable. Giving Andrew more freedom to call plays at the line would help him grow tremendously. This offensive style was made popular by Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. The cerebral element helped separate Peyton from other at his position and is one of the biggest reason he is consider one of the greatest of all time.
Luck is an intelligent player, and is definitely capable of making more adjustments at the line. It will be up to current offensive coordinator and play caller Rob Chudzinski to implement this style of play.
- The talent level around him needs to continue to grow - It’s no secret that the Colts have failed to surround Luck with talent to help him succeed. When he was drafted the Colts had no running game, a bad defense, and a poor offensive line. Fast forward five years and not much has changed.
The good news is that new general manager Chris Ballard has been impressive in his first off-season with the team. The offensive line has young players with tons of potential returning this season, and for the first time in a long time that position group has some real competition.
In years past Luck has had to put the team on his back and carry them, as opposed to having other areas complement him. If Ballard can do a great job at building a team around Andrew, it will make his job a lot easier.
- Continue to make availability a priority - After the 2015 season the Colts made it a point for Andrew to avoid as many hits as possible. As I stated above, he improved with throwing the ball away, and sliding to avoid a big hit. Andrew has a bright future ahead of him, and if he can avoid taking big hits when he gets outside of the pocket, and the offensive line can continue to develop, there is no reason Luck shouldn’t grow as a player.
- Andrew needs to stick with the process - Some of the blame does deserve to fall on Luck’s shoulders. Like any young player he has made some bonehead decisions. He is confident in his arm strength, and sometimes that can get him in trouble, as he will force the ball into windows he shouldn’t. As the players around him continue to develop and the offense develops more balance, it should help him realize that he doesn’t need to force every play for the team to win.
Andrew Luck will solidify himself among the very best quarterback talent in the NFL sooner rather than later. He played at an extremely high level for a majority of last season and put together the best performance of his career, now he just has to do it on a more consistent basis.
The Colts have failed him by not surrounding him with the necessary assets to help expedite this process early in his career. The good news is, despite the missed opportunity during his rookie contract, fans recognize that he is still young and can continue to grow as a player.
The bad news for the rest of the NFL is that he just threw 31 touchdowns and over 4,200 yards with an injured throwing shoulder, and next year he will be healthy.
Look out NFL, here comes number 12.