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Bob Kravitz: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the real deal
11:49 PM, Aug. 19, 2012 |
PITTSBURGH -- Is it too early to get giddy about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck? Is it too early to start touting him now as the Rookie of the Year and, well, The Next Peyton?
Here’s your answer:
There’s so much to love about Luck after just two preseason games, it’s hard to know where to start.
But we’ll try here in the wake of the Colts’ 26-24 preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
He had just thrown a pick-six, a bad, late throw to the outside, intercepted easily by Pittsburgh corner Ike Taylor. The education of Luck was in its second semester, with Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau throwing all kinds of zone blitzes at the rookie quarterback. For a time, he looked lost, flustered ... like a rookie is supposed to look.
And then he did something that great athletes do, something he’s been doing since he was at Stanford. (And remember how he bounced back from the pick-six against USC?) Luck, more tough-minded than anybody has a right to expect at this point, put the offense back on his shoulders and led three Colts scoring drives. And there would have been a fourth if not for T.Y. Hilton’s juggling act that turned into an unfortunate interception.
Seventeen unanswered points.
And there should have been more.
The stats: 16-of-25 for 175 yards and two interceptions. More impressive, though, he was 14-of-17 after the interception returned for a touchdown, and that stat included the Hilton drop and a spike.
Anybody still want to engage in the great Luck-RGIII debate?
“Like any great corner who gets beat, he’s got amnesia,’’ Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck. “All the great ones think it’s a fluke…He was able to come back and put it behind him. And we saw that in him back in college. He’s able to bring his team back. There was nothing to surprising to see him put those drives together.’’
Yes, it’s preseason. But we are seeing things, already, that presage imminent greatness.
It’s not just the arm. It’s not just the athleticism. It’s not just the pocket presence.
It’s all of it.
It’s the inexplicable it, that special something that is impossible to define, but you know it when you see it.
“Do you feel your confidence growing through two games?’’ Luck was asked.
“I think it’s more competence than confidence,’’ he said. “I’m feeling more competent with the offense, how it’s designed to attack certain things, so that’s a positive.’’
The pick-six, simply, was a throw he’d love to have back. “The ball was behind and inside (the receiver),’’ Luck said. “You can’t make those throws in the NFL and especially not against the Pittsburgh Steelers.’’
Luck had his moment of anger and anguish, and then moved on. Quickly.
“You get angry for a bit,’’ he said. “You can’t shut out emotion completely. But you realize, it’s a quick turnaround, so you try to flush it. I’m thinking so much about the play calls, it’s easy to forget about plays, good or bad.’’
The kid is going to make his mistakes, just the way Peyton did during his 3-13, interception-plagued rookie year. The kid is going to be overwhelmed at times, as he did early when LeBeau was throwing a good part of his playbook at the young quarterback.
But he’s going to learn, and he’s going to learn quickly. We saw it in the blowout over the Rams. We saw it in a far more daunting setting, the Colts taking on the Steelers at Heinz Field.
We’re going to see it for the next 12 to 15 years.
You know who the happiest guy in the press box was? Larry Hall. Larry, you should know, is the Colts ticket guy. He’s the one who is trying, along with his staff, to sell out Lucas Oil Stadium.
His job is getting easier every day.
Usually, the preseason means nothing; it never meant anything when the Colts were at the top of their game. But it means something now as Pagano tries to build from last year’s rubble. New players, new schemes, new everything. For a team like the Colts 2.0, the preseason is a time for building a foundation, establishing a way of doing things.
It’s not just Luck.
It’s an offensive line that plugged the holes we saw one week ago against the Rams, routinely giving Luck time to step up and throw.
It’s Vick Ballard, the rookie running back, who looks like he’s going to push Donald Brown for carries this season.
It’s Reggie Wayne, still looking spry, catching six balls in the first half.
It’s the defense, which played remarkably well in the first half except for a single breakdown that led to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown’s long catch-and-run for a touchdown.
It’s Jerry Hughes, who seemed to become a player when we weren’t looking.
Another week, another sack.
It’s rookie Griff Whalen, catching everything thrown in his direction.
The only real bad news, along with Jeremy Ross’ whiff on a punt block, was the injuries. Robert Mathis left early. Ditto on Cory Redding. And once again, we are left to ponder the short- and long-term future of Austin Collie, who was being checked (again) for concussion-like symptoms.
It’s impossible to read about Jeff Herrod, or talk to former Colt Bill Schultz, or hear about all the pain and torment former players experience, without wondering what Collie should do next. If this is another concussion, he’s got to think long and hard about his future as an NFL player. Because long after he hangs them up, he’s still going to be a father and a husband and a productive member of society.
For a rookie quarterback or an established player, this game takes no prisoners.
Bob Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bkravitz.