Last week, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts decimated Jeff Fisher's new-look St. Louis Rams in the first week of the 2012 NFL preseason at Lucas Oil Stadium in front of a home crowd of more than 63,000. This week, Luck and the new-era Colts faced a much stiffer task when they rolled into Pittsburgh to face one of Luck's idols, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Andrew Luck's second preseason outing was bumpy but had a few bright spots as well. Let's review the best and worst from the week:
GOOD: Andrew Luck survived.
Let's face the facts: The Colts bet the farm on Andrew Luck. An injury to the new face of the franchise would perhaps be the only event that could leave owner Jim Irsay speechless. While the offensive line continued to struggle with consistency, Luck proved that, like his predecessor, he can hide flaws with his quick release and solid ability to feel pressure.
BAD: Luck threw two interceptions.
You had to know there would be plenty of turnovers in Luck's rookie campaign. He tossed a pick-six via a seriously under-thrown ball, which Ike Taylor took to the house. Later, T.Y. Hilton's juggling act served up Luck's pass to the defense. In reality, only one of those interceptions was on Luck. Still, there was a behavior exposed we shouldn't like: He's staring down his receivers. It's the preseason, but it's something he must work on correcting.
GOOD: Luck bounced back after the pick-six.
I've said it before—the most important skill a quarterback can have is a short memory after a turnover. Luck flaunted that resiliency by immediately leading the Colts on a masterful 80-yard touchdown drive after serving up the lob pitch to Ike Taylor. Seeing Luck get back in the saddle like that should give Colts fans an incredible amount of confidence.
BAD: His performance reaffirmed that this likely won't be a magical turnaround.
Let's face it: After the first game, Colts fans were sky-high, brimming with confidence, and expectations were unrealistically high. Those hopes were deflated when they all learned that despite the mythic first-week performance, Andrew Luck really is a rookie. It's quite likely he'll have weeks much worse than the outing he had against the Steelers. It's even possible he and this team don't improve upon the 2-14 record, although even I would admit that's unlikely. What we learned is that he's going to have his ups and downs as he grows.
GOOD: Andrew Luck feels responsible for this team.
According to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, Chuck Pagano said Luck hated the picks. He hated losing. It's not unfathomable that Andrew Luck returned to the West 56th Street and began watching film today, ripping apart the coverage, likely tucking away what he learns for the next time the teams meet. No matter his response, it was the incredible drive that followed the interception that sent the message: This team will persevere.
BAD: Receiving targets are thinning.
With Austin Collie's injury and the still evolving tight end position, the receiver-rich environment has become suddenly shaky. Rookie Coby Fleener looked better, according to the Colts Authority's Kyle Rodriguez, but he also had a mediocre showing against the Rams. Add in Donnie Avery's roster-risking injuries and this team could be staring at another "Reggie and some other guys" routine again. LaVon Brazill is coming on strong, T.Y. Hilton's mistake didn't help his cause and no other receivers have really separated from the pack. What was thought to be a strong group is appearing less certain as we approach the season.
While Andrew Luck continues to show signs that he's going to be a very special player for the Colts, he came back to earth a bit this week. Next week, he'll see a full game plan along with more than a half of football. We'll gauge his progress after the third game, but for now, fans should take great comfort that he has shown signs of inherent greatness, even if the road has been a bit rocky.