Andrew Luck had some trouble statistically in his rookie season, but his production should start to catch up to his talent level for the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. And now that the NFL preseason is upon us, there's no better time to predict what exactly this production might look like.
A variety of reasons point to Luck improving in several statistical categories in his sophomore season. These reasons include: increased familiarity with NFL defenses, a more suitable offense for his skill set and improved talent at the running back, wide receiver and offensive line positions.
Let's take an in-depth look at how Luck will perform in five of the major statistical categories for quarterbacks in 2013.
2012 Total: 4,374 yards
Andrew Luck set the NFL rookie record for passing yards last year with a game to spare, according to ESPN. However, Luck needed a lot of throws to get to his impressive yardage total—627 to be exact. The Stampede Blue blog noted that that number was also the rookie record.
In 2013, I expect a more efficient yardage season from Luck.
With the acquisition of 1,000-yard rusher Ahmad Bradshaw, there is no reason for Luck to rank fifth in the NFL in attempts again. Bradshaw will pair with last year's starter, Vick Ballard, to form a respectable tw0-headed running attack.
In a recent article from the Tribune-Star, a newspaper out of Terre Haute, Indiana, new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was quoted as saying:
"I’m a big believer in the power-running game, I believe that opens it up for your passing game."
This will be a difference from last year, when it seemed like the Colts ran the ball only occasionally, just to change things up. Luck's yards will go down, but it won't be his fault.
Projected 2013 Total: 4,251 yards
2012 Percentage: 54.1 percent
This was Luck's biggest statistical weakness in his rookie season.
However, 2012 offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' offense stressed the deep ball, something that neither Luck nor his height-challenged receivers were suited to. According to Advanced NFL Stats, 27 percent of Luck's pass attempts were deep balls (more than yards down the field). Only Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick ranked ahead of Luck, but both of them threw much fewer passes overall.
This was not a great idea for a team with its top three receivers (Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton) all 6'0" or under.
To further prove this point Pro Football Focus noted that both Avery and Hilton ranked in the top three players in the NFL in drop rate (not a good thing). Hilton started to improve near the end of the season, and Avery is swapped out for Darrius Heyward-Bey, whose drop rate was about half of Avery's in 2012.
The Colts will be switching to a "No Coast" offense in 2013. According to the previously-mentioned Tribune-Star article, Hamilton has stressed the phrases "short passing game" and "high completion rate" when talking about the new offense.
Luck will take big strides in this category.
Projected 2013 Percentage: 63.1 percent
2012 Total: 23 touchdowns
23 passing touchdowns for a rookie quarterback doesn't look so bad in a vacuum.
Unfortunately, considering the amount of yards and passing attempts that Luck threw last year, it just won't do.
Replacing Avery with Heyward-Bey was a good start toward improving Luck's touchdown total. Heyward-Bey is faster, bigger, jumps higher and has better hands than Avery. Even if Heyward-Bey starts the season a little bit off his game because of a sprained left knee (from Yahoo! Sports), he is an upgrade.
Another year of development for the young tight ends will also be huge for Luck's touchdown totals. Dwayne Allen was fantastic in his rookie year, and should only get better. Coby Fleener struggled in a vastly different offense last year, but should improve with a more familiar offense and his old offensive coordinator from Stanford.
Reggie Wayne will be Reggie Wayne in the red zone, as always.
T.Y. Hilton broke out at the end of last year, and is always a threat to take any reception to the house, with his nice speed and elite quickness.
Add all this up, and Luck is in position to increase his passing touchdowns, despite a likely drop in passing attempts and yardage.
Projected 2013 Total: 29 touchdowns
2012 Total: 18 interceptions
Luck was tied for third in the NFL in interceptions in 2012. That's the bad news.
The good news?
He has several excuses for that. Among these are him having to throw a high volume of passes, running an unfamiliar offense and having new receivers that often made mistakes on their routes. The biggest excuse of all, however, is the offensive line he played behind.
So far, the 2012 Colts offensive line has gotten away scot-free from this article, but not anymore.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Colts' offensive line as the No. 31 line in the NFL, ahead of only the pitiful Arizona Cardinals. According to Advanced NFL Stats, the Colts' line allowed an NFL-worst 105 quarterback hits, 21 more than the closest playoff team (the Green Bay Packers). Luck often threw the ball while simultaneously getting pounded by an opposing defensive player, and many of these throws were intercepted.
Free-agent signings Donald Thomas and Gosder Cherilus will be new starters, and should help improve the talent on the line from poor to mediocre.
An improved offensive line, fewer passing attempts and improved decision-making for the sophomore will reduce Luck's interception total.
Projected 2013 Total: 13 interceptions
2012 Total: 41 sacks taken
With his terrible offensive line, Luck was running for his life in 2012.
Somehow, he was only sacked 41 times. Only three other quarterbacks were sacked more, but none of them were hit nearly as much as Luck was.
Luck is a agile quarterback, and avoided several sacks with his active legs. Take at a look at the play starting at the 4:33 mark of this video to see how Luck doesn't just give up when the pocket collapses, and ends up with a touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill.
With the upgrades and (hopefully) fewer injuries in 2013 for the offensive line, as already mentioned, Luck should take slightly fewer sacks in 2013.
Add into the equation that likely new starter at running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, is very good at pass blocking, according to fantasy football expert Evan Silva, and you have a much rosier outlook for Luck's protection in 2013.
Interesting stat: @PFF graded Vick Ballard 42nd in pass blocking among 59 qualifying RBs last season. They had Ahmad Bradshaw 1st overall.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) June 11, 2013
Projected 2013 Total: 32 sacks taken
Where will Andrew Luck rank among NFL quarterbacks in 2013?
Luck will make the natural improvement that a second-year quarterback usually does, but it's the amount of positive changes around him that will help truly make his statistics reflect his skill level in 2013.
Considering all the "luck" (pun intended) the Colts experienced last year during their 11-5 season, expecting lots of improvement on the Colts' record is not smart.
But this is a vastly improved team, and Andrew Luck will be the leader.
Comprehensive Statistical Predictions:
4,251 passing yards, 369-of-585 passes completed (63.1 percent), 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 92.2 quarterback rating, 241 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns, 32 sacks taken
Note: All statistics and records mentioned are found on Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise indicated.