For a guy who hadn’t started an NFL game in nearly two calendar years, Andrew Luck looked really stinkin’ good in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. With a new scheme, new targets, a new-look backfield and offensive line, Luck still managed 39 completions — a career high — and 300 passing yards with a 73.6% completion rate.
He put up two touchdowns, one using his touch from 26 yards out to Eric Ebron, and another quick-hitter to T.Y. Hilton using pinpoint accuracy and timing to get some points on the board. Overall Luck was pretty impressive, but there is still some polishing that needs to be done this early in the season.
We’ll go through some of both, his good and bad examples from Week 1, but more or less it seems as if Luck is simply climbing the ladder back to excellence. Here is a little sample of what I saw from Luck’s film. What he did well, and what he still needs to clean up as he prepares for Week 2 against the Washington Redskins.
Failing to pull the trigger
In our first look at Luck, we see something that falls on the side of him needing to do better job letting the ball go. Right from the snap you see that Jordan Wilkins is technically open right away, but due to the linebacker moving quickly Luck passes on hitting him. Additionally, when Luck gets to the top of his drop T.Y. Hilton hasn’t separated yet from his coverage.
Luck’s next read is Eric Ebron on the short drag and he’s wide open and could easily have gotten 3 or 4 yards to move the chains. But, taking his man deep, Ryan Grant is a target Luck considers as well which took his attention away from a sure-thing first down. Luck has to make a decision here and stick with it. Ebron is open and Grant has a step on the cornerback and no safety help over the top waiting for him.
Instead Luck comes back to Ebron for a mere completion and Ebron loses a couple yards as a result. Luck has always passed up some of these gimmes in recent years, and this one should have gone to Ebron the first time through. I expect this to get better with time, otherwise it’s just a completion rate builder and does nothing for the offense that is looking for some quick strikes just like this.
Luck again doesn’t throw the deep ball
Here is a similar example of Luck passing on the big play and second-guessing himself early in the year. You can see that Grant, again, finds himself with nothing over the top to stop him from a touchdown reception. Luck gets to the top of his drop, and there he is, wide open for a big splash play and a clean pocket to throw it from.
Naturally, the pocket doesn’t stay clean, and Luck’s out of options and has to pull the ball down in order to make a last-ditch effort at making something happen. I don’t know why he isn’t at least attempting that throw. It’s a sure fire touchdown if thrown on time, but he holds the ball. It’s aggravating to see these opportunities missed, but it’s even worse that this might be why talking heads are saying they’re questioning his arm strength.
Nice patience to hit the RB
This almost resembles a red zone type play that could be implemented. This is one of Luck’s good ones too. This high-low concept is covered right away, there is nothing breaking open. The safety sniffs it out right away, and Luck sees it pretty clearly. It’s a nice pocket formed by the offensive line, but after seeing everyone covered Luck knows he has to climb the pocket and either hoof it, or give it off to the running back.
Just as Luck is feeling that the defensive line is closing in on him, Nyheim Hines gets into his vision. Naturally, Luck knows Hines is going to appear with the middle of the field wide open. He calmly kicks it to Hines and he gets an easy 7-yard pickup. It’s not all that exciting, but it does show great patience by him to get the easy pickup underneath.
I thought we were getting the ball out quickly?
This isn’t one of Luck’s better non-decisions. It’s understandable that Luck wants to convert this, but the Bengals back seven is dropping before the snap. Luck at the top of his drop has to see that he’s not going to be able to push the ball down the field. The only option is to drop it down to Wilkins and hope that he can do something after the catch.
This one doesn’t deserve much more analysis than that, but there are so many plays that are like this. There’s one feasible option, and though it doesn’t look like a big play can come from it, he’s still got to get that ball out on time, every time. It’s Frank Reich’s system, it’s what they’ve designed for him to get into a rhythm and he’s simply got to execute these simple plays as such.
Just an all-around bad decision
Here we see Luck’s interception in the red zone shortly after the Colts defense forced an interception. There’s a couple things that happen here. Luck absolutely predetermined where he was going to go before the snap. This presents a problem because Jack Doyle slips when he plants his foot to break off the route, and he had Ebron partially open with less resistance near the goal line.
If Doyle didn’t get eaten up by the carpet monster, would he have been able to come back to the ball enough to haul in the reception? It’s hard to say. On the other hand, if he would have targeted Ebron as soon as he got to the top of his drop, would he have been able to fit the ball in such a tight window?
I do think if Luck elevated the ball a bit that neither linebacker would have been able to make a play on the ball. The issue comes in when you consider that he’d likely be hanging Ebron out to dry with the safety breaking on the pass. Additionally, the pressure does get there very quickly and you almost wonder if Luck hitting the ground like Peyton Manning used to when the pass rush was quickly closing in would have been the better option here.
This one’s difficult to nail down the ‘best choice’ for Luck. We do know one thing, though, this pass to Doyle certainly wasn’t it.
Throw it away and live to fight another play
This is a demon Luck has battled throughout his career. Forget the shoulder right now, just think of the interceptions that wouldn’t happen if Luck never does this again. Part of the allure with Luck is that he is going to make plays when it doesn’t look like there’s one to be made.
However, this situation simply cannot produce this result as being the norm for Luck.
Off of the play action, Luck rolls to his right. Eventually, Ryan Grant comes open to where Luck could have thrown towards the sideline and trusted Grant to go get the ball. That’s still a risky throw, as he hasn’t created a ton of separation throughout his route.
Luck doesn’t look like he trusts the throw to Ebron either. I don’t think I can blame him, but there aren’t many more options available. Luck does decide to throw back to Doyle who has peeled off his initial block. This absolutely should have been picked off, and is an extremely dangerous throw.
Luck’s simple decision should have been just to throw the ball out of bounds and move on to the next play. Instead, he nearly throws another interception and this one would have been just as bad as his red zone interception in the first quarter. The ball would have been turned over at the 25 yard line and the Colts would have been in a world of hurt going forward.
As I mentioned at the top, this isn’t a deconstruction of Luck’s abilities. Rather, this is just an opportunity to point out some issues that he may need to work on going forward. Reich was brought in to design the perfect offense for Luck to execute. If Luck continues to make half-brained decisions it will negate everything that the Colts, the coaching staff and Luck himself are supposed to working towards.
Luck had a pretty excellent game in Week 1. As you’ve seen, it wasn’t all good, and there certainly are things for him to work on. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how Luck progresses throughout the season.