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Andrew Luck Deserves His Share of Blame for Colts' Offensive Struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 01:  Andrew Luck #12  of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIDecember 12, 2013

In a season where Indianapolis Colts fans are frustrated, no one wants to hear it, but Andrew Luck has also struggled as another reason why the team hasn't been effective on offense.

Still, the Colts' season, as a whole, has to be considered a success.  The Colts are 8-5, have locked up the AFC South title and are bound for the playoffs for a second straight season after going just 2-14 during the 2011 campaign.  

Luck has been a huge reason for that, and while he's made a number of plays, he's shown at times that he isn't quite ready to be named among the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

Let's take a brief look at some things that Luck could improve on heading into next season.  By no means am I claiming that Luck is solely responsible for his team's offensive woes this season, but instead, one has to acknowledge that Luck has struggled at times this season and that the Colts will be in much better shape if he can correct his mistakes.


Ball Placement

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 10:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts walks off of the field after throwing his third interception during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 10, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Luck has had to deal with a lot of pressure this season.  Not only has he been sacked 29 times, but he's been pressured on 203 of his 529 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

With that much constant pressure, Luck hasn't been as accurate as some would have hoped.  While it's fair to criticize the offensive line for his accuracy, there have been times when Luck has simply missed some wide-open players with a relatively clean pocket.

Let's start by taking a look at this big 3rd-and-1 play a couple of weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans.

Game Rewind

Here, the Colts are running a "23" or "Jumbo" personnel package, using two running backs and three tight ends.  They're using a tight wing formation with tight ends on both sides on the line and another tight end just off it. The Titans are preparing for a run play, but the Colts decide to go with a play-action fake instead.

Game Rewind

After faking the run to Trent Richardson, it's clear that fullback Stanley Havili has Bernard Pollard beaten, and he will be wide open.  Luck has a relatively clean pocket compared to what he usually has, so this should be a relatively easy pass.

Game Rewind

Watch the ball come out of Luck's hands with Havili wide open.

Game Rewind

Unfortunately, Luck misses Havili and the Colts miss out on a big opportunity. 

Plays like this have happened quite frequently this season, even when Luck has a clean pocket.  Perhaps his internal clock is thrown off by the constant pressure, and he feels that he needs to get the ball out as fast as possible.  That's certainly understandable, but with a clean pocket, Luck should be able to complete these types of passes.



CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 08:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass while defended by James Harrison #92 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

One of the things that makes Luck such a popular quarterback is the fact that he almost never gives up on a play, even with defenders on top of him.

Unfortunately, that's also a big reason why he has struggled this season.

Sometimes, Luck simply refuses to go down and will make very questionable throws.  In all honesty, he's been incredibly fortunate that he hasn't thrown more interceptions considering the way that he slings the ball out when going down.

I could point to a number of times he's done this, but one of the more costly ones came a few weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals, with the Colts already trailing, 17-3.

Game Rewind

Here, the Colts are using an "11" or "Posse" personnel grouping and running a doubles formation out of the gun.

Game Rewind

The defense quickly gets to Luck, and there are two defensive players on him. However, he refuses to go down and begins staring at Coby Fleener. Karlos Dansby sees what Luck is trying to do and understands that the second-year quarterback tends to make bad throws when players are trying to wrap him up.

Dansby then jumps in front of Fleener, and takes the interception all the way for a defensive touchdown, putting the game out of reach with just under eight minutes remaining in the second quarter (h/t @gifdsports).

Overall, it's the inconsistent accuracy and poor decisions that have kept Luck from becoming truly elite this season.  A serious lack of talent around him and a questionable coaching staff could also be big reasons for his struggles as well, but from what we've seen from Luck, he's not off the hook completely for what has happened.

 However, Luck is still a very promising quarterback and he has the potential to be truly great.  He has the natural talent and work ethic to fix these things, even if the players around him aren't giving him any help.

Will Luck ever stop trying to make plays when there's almost nothing there?  Probably not, but he will get better over the next few years, especially if the organization can bring in some help for him.

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