The Indianapolis Colts have long awaited the return of the face of their franchise, quarterback Andrew Luck, from a torn labrum that required surgery on his throwing shoulder. Luck has not played since week 17 of the 2016 NFL Season, and was shut down in October of last season after briefly beginning his return to practice. The Colts finished 4-12 last season with Jacoby Brissett taking over at quarterback while Luck sat out during his recovery. The offense got better as the year went along, but it was not good enough to be able to offset the struggles defensively. With that being said, the return of Luck will drastically change what they will be able to do on both sides of the football, and the team will be unquestionably better. Let’s look at what exactly his return will bring.
T.Y. Hilton should be one of most excited players to see Andrew Luck return to the playing field, as he led the league with 1,448 receiving yards the last season he had Luck throwing him passes.In his lone season with Brissett at quarterback, Hilton failed to reach even 1,000 receiving yards. Hilton is most talented when he is able to use his speed to his advantage by taking the top off of the defense and outrunning the secondary. Luck will be able to get the ball into the hands of Hilton with much better accuracy than Brissett and without surrendering as many turnovers. The return of the deep ball to the Colts offense will force opposing secondaries to back off and that will open up both the running game and short passing game. This was arguably the best element of the Colts offense before Luck was injured, and should remain just that with his return.
The return of Luck will also limit the amount of time the defense will be forced to remain on the field. Indianapolis has had their struggles on defense during the entirety of Luck’s career. However, last season’s defense was even worse than usual. A lack of pass rush and lack of overwhelming talent at any level of the defense allowed teams to score too many points for the offense to keep up. Many of these added deficiencies could actually be solved by having a good offense, as the lengthy drives on offense would keep the struggling defense off of the field. With Brissett at quarterback, the Colts’ drives would often either end in points or with three-and-outs. While the drives ending in points were great, most of the drives ended after just three plays and the defense would have to return to the field shortly after they left it. Luck’s return would add to the average length of their drives by a substantial amount with his incredible accuracy and play-making ability. As a team trying to hide holes on that side of the ball, the Colts should aim to limit the time the defense is on the field.
Lastly, the return of Luck will eliminate many of the negative plays that force the Colts into second and third-and-longs. Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at keeping plays alive after the initial progressions, using his athleticism, intelligence, and unmatched instincts to escape and save broken down plays. And while the offensive line will be better this season with the retooling done to the position group this off-season, it will still be a work in process. Luck’s ability to keep plays alive will help this unit improve as they struggle with inexperience and lack of cohesiveness. This ability will also help the Colts in the two ways I have previously mentioned, as Luck’s ability to keep plays alive will open up deep passes and keep the defense off of the field.
Andrew Luck’s return to the Colts will immediately improve the talent level of their team, and should make them contenders in the AFC South and a threat to make the playoffs.