We get it. “If Andrew Luck is even healthy..” has become the common qualifier over the past year-and-a-half among any and all fans, as well as the healthy majority of NFL analysts. We as Indianapolis Colts’ fans have fallen into that hole as well at times, so it’s not completely an unfounded angle on the team.
On the other hand, for myself at least, that ship has sailed. I have absolutely no doubt that Luck will return, on time for the bulk of camp and be as ready as he can be to start in Week 1. Some are beginning to come around as well, and at least one ESPN analyst (Mike Clay) is giving Luck the credit he deserves as he projects the league’s quarterbacks for the 2018 season.
Some are seeing this as poppycock considering Luck missed more than half of the 2015 season and all of the 2017 season due to injury. But, even a quick inquiry into what Luck has put up since his rookie year provides the backdrop for some pretty obvious expectations for his 2018 season.
First, though, I will offer that it’s reasonable to consider this 4,403-yard projection to be a touch high, but it isn’t far off. Luck is going to have a considerable obstacle in being sidelined for an entire season. He will have some rust to shake off, the speed of the game will take some getting re-acclimated to — I don’t think anyone can discount that.
On the other hand, if Luck is anything close to who we know he is competitively, or with his nearly unmatched aggression, one must assume that he will more than make up for that initial rough patch that is inevitably facing him.
Just look at his statistical makeup from any season that Luck didn’t suffer from injury. Luck’s worst non-injury passing yardage season came in 2013 (3,822 yards) when he was 13th in the league. Some quick context on the 2013 season: Reggie Wayne missed 9 games that year and was still 3rd in receptions on the team behind T.Y. Hilton (82) and Coby Fleener (52), Trent Richardson led the team in rushing attempts despite being terrible and Luck tallied his fewest attempts per game under OC Pep Hamilton.
Now, in 2012 (7th), 2014 (3rd) and in 2016 (8th) Luck averaged 4,458 passing yards per season and placed inside the top-10 in the league. Keeping in mind that Luck has missed 25 games between the 2015 and 2017 seasons, there are only 6 NFL quarterbacks who have stayed inside the top-10 more than Luck has over the past 6 seasons.
Those QBs are: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer. There’s a pretty good chance that they’re all Hall of Famers in the end, or at the very least under heavy consideration. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins have all done it three times just as Luck has — again, not bad company there either.
I get that passing yardage is just one aspect of the quarterback position, but the last we saw Luck leading an offense he was absolutely a top-5 quarterback in the league overall. Last season around this time of year, I put up an article suggesting — and backing up — that very argument.
Here’s a quick snippet from that piece in which you can follow the link above to read it in its entirety.
Last year (2016) Luck bounced back with a significant uptick in his play. He appeared more sure of himself, taking intelligent risks and was more accurate than he’d been in his career – not to mention he was 6th in the league in NFL.com’s ‘Air-Yards to the Sticks’ compilation on third downs in 2016, showing his aggression to move the ball consistently on late downs.
But, how – you ask – did he compare to the rest of the league when looking at all significant statistics? Well, I looked at most of them anyhow. Something that I’d put together when studying quarterbacks in the past was something I named the MVQB. Trying to get a big-picture view of how each quarterback performed throughout the season was important.
For example, I wanted to see how effective each was in the red zone, on late downs with more than 6 yards to go, accuracy, air yards, touchdown-to-interception percentage differentials as well as using win percentage to a lesser degree. There were additional basic statistics involved as well, but I tried to weigh the most important towards success the most.
Thus, there really isn’t much for anyone to find an argument to hang their hat on, other than his health status, that suggests that Luck will do anything other than jump back into the elite of the league in passing yards.
Again, does a year out of football present its struggles? Absolutely. Does that mean that Luck all of the sudden isn’t an elite talent with the ability to vault a young, possibly below average roster back into relevance — and dare I say the playoff chase? Well, we’ve seen that too many times to even consider discounting Luck from that argument.