Time nearing when Colts must decide: Andrew Luck or Jacoby Brissett?

WESTFIELD, Ind. – The time is nearing when The Decision must be made.

Andrew Luck or Jacoby Brissett?

Who’s under center when the Indianapolis Colts open a season of lofty aspirations Sept. 8 against the Chargers in Los Angeles?

Who’s the guy?

When the Colts and Cleveland Browns shared the Grand Park Sports Campus practice fields Wednesday, Brissett was the guy. He ran the No. 1 offense, just as he had for the previous 10 training camp sessions.

Brissett, who’s immersed in an uneven camp, enjoyed arguably his best day, completing 11-of-14 passes against the Browns’ No. 1 defense during team drills.

“He had a couple of nice timing throws to T.Y., did a nice job of getting it out over the middle a couple of times,’’ Frank Reich said. “Was very happy with the way Jacoby looked today.’’

Luck, meanwhile, looked on from the periphery. He was in shorts and a T-shirt, and his left ankle – which now is contributing to his extended absence – was wrapped with tape.

He last delivered a pass with teammates July 28, and no one is certain when he’ll be cleared to return to practice, severely test his ankle/calf and determine whether he, not Brissett, is the starter versus the Chargers.

But again, that time is quickly approaching. That time might be Aug. 26, and we’ll get to that.

We’re not talking about Luck getting on the field in any of the three remaining preseason games. That’s not happening.

We’re talking about the team’s $140 million quarterback not only returning to practice, but proving to everyone – himself included – his left calf/ankle has improved to the point he can handle a full practice. Then another and another after that.

“Ideally, the more time you have the better,’’ Reich said. “But by the end of the third preseason game I think you need to know something. You’ve got to be able to make the call and move from there. . . . You have 10 days for that first game.

“And whether we’re full speed with Andrew after that third preseason game or at that point, are we going to go with Jacoby? We’ll make that decision when that time comes.’’

That means for all intents and purposes, the Colts have Aug. 26 circled on their calendar. That’s two days after their third preseason game – against the Chicago Bears in Lucas Oil Stadium – and when they return to the practice field at their West 56th Street complex.

By then, has Luck progressed to the point he’s able to play his position at a high level? Or is it time to turn to Brissett?

A couple of stats to keep in mind when considering Luck’s value to the Colts: They’ve posted a 53-33 regular-season record and averaged 25.5 points per game with Luck as their starter. Without him, they’re 10-16 and have averaged 17.1 points.

Reich has watched Luck battle through his latest injuries. It began as a strained left calf and now involves pain in the front part of his ankle. Luck has been rehabbing away from his teammates and incorporating a strenuous throwing regimen into it.

Reich watched video of Luck’s throwing session Wednesday before going out for the joint work with the Browns.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be ready or not, we’ll see,’’ he said. “But the little bit that I saw today, (he) looked good.’’

However the next few weeks unfold, Reich realizes Luck will do whatever it takes to be ready for the Chargers.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. “He’s Andrew Luck. He’s our starting quarterback. That’s his job. That’s his calling, if will. That’s what he’s here to do.

“He’s exhausting every resource to be there for the team, no doubt.’’

If Luck’s rehab stalls or doesn’t take the necessary steps, the offense belongs to Brissett.

“We like Jacoby Brissett,’’ Chris Ballard said.

Wednesday, there was a lot to like. Facing a disruptive Browns defense, he showed poise, a strong arm and heretofore missing accuracy. At one point during team drills, Brissett completed his first 10 passes. His first misfire was a rare drop by T.Y. Hilton. Many completions were on intermediate routes, but the efficiency was there nonetheless.

Reich has seen Brissett improved throughout camp.

“I think his mastery of our protection schemes,’’ he said. “The quarterback and the center really have to have complete control over that. He was good last year, but I think he’s made major strides to get really good in that area.

“Just generally speaking, getting the ball out quicker, with rhythm and timing. Jacoby’s got that big arm. He can get the ball down the field. But we’re always looking for rhythm and timing in the pass game and then still taking advantage of his big arm when we can.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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