By John Moore
A year ago, Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, called the year “Super Bowl or Bust.” After finishing with an 8-8 record, Irsay along with GM Ryan Grigson and Coach Chuck Pagano are taking a more measured approach going into the 2016 season. Injuries played a huge role for the Colts’ last season, particularly those concerning quarterback Andrew Luck. His loss was a setback, along with defensive tackle Art Jones and rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson.
Eventhough Andrew Luck recently signed a contract extension to continue to be the face of the franchise, the Colts need Luck to be more of a game manager. Last season they continued to implement an offensive system that heavily relied on the passing game, in an attempt to maximize the use of Andrew Luck’s ability to push the ball down the field and TY Hilton’s ability to get separation from defensive backs. Due to this, the Colts’ were 9th in the league in passing attempts per game as they averaged 38.4 per game according to team rankings. While the Colts offensive system showed flashes of brilliance during last season, it prevented them from achieving their goal of winning football games. Due to the fact that Luck likes to hold on to the ball for a long period of time to give TY and the other wide receivers a chance to get enough separation to catch the ball. The offensive line isn’t strong or quick enough to hold their blocks to allow him to hold the ball, which leaves him more vulnerable to being hit or sacked. As a result, it increases the possibility that the offense has shorter drives which result in the defense having to go back on the field without the proper amount of rest. This leads to the defense being more vulnerable to giving up yards and points because they were not able to regain the energy needed between possessions to stop the opposing offense.
Therefore, it would benefit the Colts to turn Andrew Luck into a field general. Once the Colts made the opposing defense honor the running game by stacking the box, it will allow the Colts’ to run play action passes. This will the Colts’ receivers more man to man coverage and Andrew Luck more open space on the field to lead his receivers to the ball. Keeping drives alive while forcing the opposing team to put more players in coverage to decrease the chance of the offense scoring a substantial amount of points in a short period of time. This gives the running backs room to run the ball again. The combination of these factors decreases the likelihood of Luck being hit or taking a sack, while at the same time allowing the offense to stay on the field for a prolonged period of time. Meaning that the defense can rest between drives. If the Colts were to turn Andrew Luck into more of a game manager, they will most likely win more than 8 games.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Colts need to prove they belong in the conversation regarding the best teams in the AFC. Luck is back as the starter for 2016 and is hoping for a much healthier season than the one he had last year. Luck was inactive for nine games for shoulder and kidney injuries. A healthy and fully functional Luck will be crucial to any kind of success Indianapolis hopes to have this year. Luck has to show that he is back to the form that made him one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Even before all the injuries took hold in 2015, the former No. 1 draft pick was not off to a great start. Luck will also be working with his third offensive coordinator in his fifth season in the league, learning a completely new system under Rob Chudzinski. Can the pass protection improve? Pagano has faith that former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin can straighten out the Colts’ many offensive line issues. That includes providing more consistent pass protection for quarterback Andrew Luck. It’s also a hope that Philbin can provide some stability to the offensive line in Indy.
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