With No Timetable Set, the Indianapolis Colts Need to Protect Their Franchise QB
The Colts could be on their way to securing last place in the AFC South. Colts QB Andrew Luck underwent shoulder surgery this past January to remedy a torn labrum. The injury is something Luck has been playing through since the 2015 season. Although Luck has played well with the injury, something obviously wasn’t right. The decision for surgery was made, and Luck is learning to adapt after having went under the knife.
“The end game is for me to be better than I was before I got injured. And I don’t want to put a date on that, if that makes sense. I think that’s really sort of unfair.” Luck stated in an interview at the Colts training camp. Luck is attempting to calm the nerves of Colts fans who wonder if their “once in a generation” talent will be able to return to 100%.
The upper brass in Indianapolis are echoing Luck’s confidence – but they have to. The fact that Luck had to undergo surgery after playing uncomfortably for the past two seasons indicates alternatives to surgery failed. Customarily, surgery remains a last resort. Now, the Colts must face the reality of where they are. Luck had the surgery and begins training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
New GM Chris Ballard is aware of the concern regarding Luck’s rehab and recovery, but seems to be more focused with the process and the long-term success. According to Ballard, he’s trusting the process but is aware he has to be cautious.
“Andrew has not had any setbacks at all in his rehab process or with his surgery. He is in good shape. He is in good standing.” advised Ballard in an interview with Indy Star Sports.
“Andrew’s got to work on getting his throwing motion back. All his strength back. All of that is just part of the process that both his doctor and our trainers have set for him” stated Ballard. What this statement indicates is Luck currently still does not have his strength back and his throwing motion hasn’t returned to normal.
Luck will continue to rehab and reestablish his throwing motion, but the concern is how Luck will handle it when the pads are on. Being that his throwing shoulder required surgery, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts. The Colts are playing it safe with Luck by keeping him on PUP and out of contact, padded practices. But these are practices with teammates – who undoubtedly wouldn’t even come close to touching Luck.
Defenses he plays against during the regular season, however, will make it a point to punish Luck.
“The good thing is the league gives you an opportunity to acquire and fix your problems, uh, with other players being cut.” Ballard expressed, he added “The good ones figure out what’s wrong, and then in that first 6 weeks of the season, they’re trying to acquire players that either are cut, on somebody else’s practice squad, veteran that’s on the street to help fix those problems.”
Six weeks is the mandatory amount of time a player placed on regular season PUP has to miss. In Luck’s case, that may be the direction the team is headed. The Colts’ scheduled in for the six-week period would include the LA Rams, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cleveland Browns, the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Tennessee Titans.
The Colts would be fools to put Luck in danger considering the first six weeks is filled with teams known primarily for their defense. A hit by Aaron Donald wouldn’t feel good. Rookie Myles Garrett would love to sack Luck in his rookie season. Kam Chancellor hitting Luck in the open field? Not good. Reuben Foster? Colts fans may already have nightmares of Foster getting a free shot on Luck. And the Titans? They are going into the Prime Time meeting looking to make a statement and end the Colts winning streak. Is Luck’s career worth putting in jeopardy? Not to mention facing division foes JJ Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Brian Orakpo…and the list goes on.
I think the Colts starting Luck on PUP for the season should be a decision already made. But I’m going a step further. I would sit Luck the entire season. Give him the year to really rehabilitate and recover. As much as it pains me to say this – because I am a Titans fan – let Luck get healthy. Putting him on the field if there is even a slight concern of re-injury may mean more than one lost season.
It could mean several.
Being a Titans fan, I want to beat the Colts and end the streak. With Luck playing injured – or with Luck watching from the sidelines, a victory won’t feel as sweet. I’ll still enjoy it, but I want the Titans to beat the Colts at full strength – and with Luck’s shoulder a huge question mark, it’s clear they will not be at their best.
Other Quarterbacks have had similar surgery, but not many come back the same. Drew Brees is the biggest exception – he had the surgery and has been one of the league’s top passers. Mark Sanchez had a similar surgery, he’s best at holding a clipboard now. Jay Cutler – he’s retired. I think Luck’s more on the level of Brees, but should take the time to rest up.
This is why.
Drew Brees has been sacked 358 times. He’s been playing for 16 years. He’s played in 233 games. That averages to about 1.5 sacks per game.
Andrew Luck? He’s been sacked 156 times. He’s been playing 5 years. He’s played in 70 games. That average is 2.2 sacks per game. Last season alone, Luck was sacked 41 times – he tied the total from his rookie season. At one point, he was on pace to be sacked 60 times. This is due to a lackluster offensive line. The line is not stable enough to risk Luck’s health.
By now, the Colts should have solidified their offensive line. Although they’ve gotten better, one has to wonder how much if he was sacked just as much as his rookie year.
The other concern is the fact that Luck is the offense. Since entering the league in 2012, he’s attempted 2,651 passes. That’s 107 more attempts than Aaron Rodgers. It’s 252 less than Tom Brady. It’s 391 less than Matt Ryan. So his numbers seem about right? Well, the other QBs mentioned are in better situations than Luck. They’ve been in the league longer and have not had major surgery to their throwing shoulder. They have better offensive lines. Luck has to carry this team for it to break .500. The other three do not.
With a throwing motion that remains under construction, Ballard needs to preserve Luck’s future. Guarantee there is not reason to panic by bringing in another QB to get through the season. Veterans like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick both have starter experience and can move an offense. With Griffin, there’s concern for injury – but you’re not signing him long-term. He’s a band-aid. With Kaepernick – he doesn’t have injury concerns, just a media following that has teams second guessing if he’s worth signing.
Kaepernick could keep the Colts competitive. He can – like Luck – make plays with his legs or his arm. Even if the Colts decide to play Luck and the worst possible scenario happens, having Kaepernick coming off the bench could keep the rhythm in a way Scott Tolzien cannot. Ballard should at least consider it now before the Ravens pull the trigger. Having a QB with starter experience is a luxury most teams do not have.
For Jim Irsay, Ballard, Pagano – and anyone else who’s job could be in scrutinized if they make the wrong decision, the solution is simple. Give Luck a year to recover – sign a quality veteran to maintain a level of competitiveness. If the season is a flop, at least you preserve the health of the franchise QB. Playing Luck is testing the team’s luck.
The Colts may not be that lucky.
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Stats referenced at NFL.com