INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A season of great expectations awaits, as does a second summer at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield.
They go hand in hand.
After three months of offseason work and a five-week lull, the Indianapolis Colts report to Grand Park July 24 for the start of training camp. They’re on the practice field for the first time the following day.
Between now and then, we’ll take a position-by-position look at a team coming off a 10-6 season and wild-card playoff appearance, and considered by many observers to be one of the trendy picks to make serious noise in the postseason.
- Starter: Andrew Luck
- Backup: Jacoby Brissett
- Others: Phillip Walker, Chad Kelly
Ready or not? In case you’ve forgotten, Luck missed the entirety of the Colts’ offseason work with a strained calf muscle. That continued a frustrating trend: his rehab following January 2017 shoulder surgery ate up that offseason and ultimately kept him out of the season; Rehab II forced him to miss the ’18 offseason.
If everyone with a significant voice is to be believed, Luck will be ready for that first practice July 25.
“I will be ready for training camp,” Luck insisted.
Added Frank Reich: “You can always re-aggravate something, I suppose. Barring anything crazy, in mind it’s more of a no-brainer.”
No matter how anyone spins it, it wasn’t ideal for Luck to miss the offseason. He was unable to work with free-agent wideout Devin Funchess or rookie Parris Campbell. He couldn’t further fine-tune things with T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron and the rest, or work behind a returning offensive line.
Luck insisted he was throwing while rehabbing the calf injury, and indicated he would attempt to line up throwing sessions during the break with some of his receivers. He also was expected to continue working with throwing guru Tom House. All of that will serve everyone well going into camp.
Having said that, Luck enjoyed one of the most efficient seasons of his seven-year career without benefit of on-field offseason preparation. Remember the 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns? His 67.3 completion percentage and 98.7 passer rating were career highs.
What’s next? More of the same, only better. We’ve always believed a player is better the second year back after missing a season due to an injury. As good as Luck was last year, he didn’t really regain his “A” game until mid-October.
Over the final 10 games – the Colts fashioned an impressive 9-1 closing kick to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 – he completed 69.5 percent of his passes and averaged a robust 7.98 yards per attempt. His passer rating: 106.9. Those numbers were in stark contrast to the first six games when Luck still was feeling his way back: 64.6 completion percentage, 6.2 yards per attempt, an 88.8 rating.
Even though Luck wasn’t able to work on the field during the offseason, he was active in meetings. He offered steady input and informed Reich which portions of the playbook he was most comfortable with, and which portions needed a tweak or two.
“I have always enjoyed meetings and I have always enjoyed class,” Luck said. “There is so much more for me as a quarterback to learn. There is so much more for all of us as players together to get on the same page. T.Y. and I still have discussions about how we see things maybe differently or how we see things similarly or where we can improve.”
Worth noting: The names Peyton Manning and John Unitas dominate the quarterback section of the Colts record book. Manning holds the NFL record (for now) with 539 touchdown passes, including a team record 399 in Indy. Unitas ranks 15th in league history with 290, including 287 as a Colt.
When it comes to single-season flingin’, Luck takes a backseat only to Manning, who set the team mark and eclipsed Dan Marino’s league record with 49 in 2004. The next two totals belong to Luck: a league-best 40 in 2014 and 39 last season.
Also, Unitas holds the team record with a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games. Luck sits No. 2 on that list, with a TD in 33 straight. That streak ended in the Colts’ week 13 visit to Jacksonville, a 6-0 loss.
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