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DFTBA Sports: NFL Preseason

14/08/2012

When Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had a setback on his offseason neck surgery in 2011, months after signing a five year, $90 million dollar deal, things did not bode well for the Colts. Since starting as a rookie in 1998, Manning hadn’t missed a single start, leading his team to a Superbowl championship, as well as a record nine consecutive playoff appearances. He carried the team on his back, overcoming a thoroughly average offensive line, below par run game and leaky defence with his extraordinary level of play. Manning eventually missed the entire 2011 season and the Colts performed as you would expect as team missing its Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback to. Indianapolis finished the season with a 2-14 record, making it only the second time since 1998 that the team didn’t win at least 10 games.

Due to the team’s poor performance though, Indianapolis was left with a problem. Following the season, the team had ended up with the first pick in the Draft, which featured Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as its top prospect. Heralded by many as the best prospect since Peyton, fans of the Browns, Dolphins and Redskins, among others, urged their respective teams for “Suck for Luck” during the season, that is, lose their games so that they would have a better chance of acquiring Luck. By all accounts he was the safest draft pick in years, almost guaranteed to become a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Colts however, Peyton Manning appeared to be fully recovered. They had a decision to make: either trade the first pick or get rid of Manning.

In the end, Indianapolis released Peyton Manning, who then signed with the Denver Broncos. It seems almost absurd to him in any jersey other than the white and blue of the Colts, but they decided that the opportunity to move seamlessly from one great quarterback to another who had the potential to be great was too attractive to pass up. Luck was selected first overall in the 2012 Draft by the Colts, and the reins to the offense were officially passed. A three year starter at Stanford who won over 80% of his games, Luck has no gimmicks or issues as a player. He doesn’t rely on utilising his legs as a weapon like Tim Tebow or Terrelle Pryor, and he doesn’t have a history of injuries like Sam Bradford did when he graduated. He’s just really, really good at throwing the football.

This was evidenced in his first game as a Colt; this past week in a preseason matchup against the Rams. Notably, Luck’s first pass as professional quarterback was a 63 yard touchdown. How ‘bout that. It becomes less remarkable though, when you realise that it was less of a missile that travelled half the field in the air and was caught in the endzone, and more of a 3 yard dump off and 60 yard sprint by Donald Brown for the touchdown. His skills were showcase more in his following drives though, as he led the offense for two more touchdowns, showing outstanding accuracy with the ball being placed perfectly on a number of occasions for receivers running deep out routes, a notoriously difficult pass for even experienced quarterbacks to complete. What was even more impressive though, was Luck’s pocket presence. With the horrid offensive line that he has inherited from Manning, it is paramount that he be able to move around in the pocket when it collapses, as it surely will. He showed great footwork in being able to move up when edge pressure was presented to him, as well as scrambling outside when inside pressure was shown. Although he may not have the speed of a Michael Vick or Robert Griffin, he certainly has the quickness to survive today’s blitz-happy NFL.

It is looking more and more likely each gameday that Peyton Manning’s last gift to his beloved Indianapolis Colts was to have to nerves in his neck flare up.

~Liam

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