The Colts offense should be better in 2018; but don’t expect miracles.
For the first time in in forever, the Colts will have Andrew Luck under center in 2018. Not just that, but he is fully healthy, with the shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the whole 2017 (hopefully) a thing of the past.
Now, whenever Luck has been healthy, the Colts offense has hummed despite years of woeful offensive line play. With the former number 1 overall pick elevating the performance of those around him, Luck has the ability to turn an average supporting cast into a top 10 offense.
Regardless of injury status however, it would be unfair to immediately expect the Andrew Luck of old in Week 1 against the Bengals, as there is likely to be some rust to shake off.
Performance so-far in 2018
Luck has been a full participant in all practice until a recent minor foot injury, and featured in the first three pre season games as expected, but the offense has hardly been dominant. The first team offense only scored one TD in preseason on a pass from Luck, with the team operating, as first year HC Frank Reich liked to call it, a “vanilla” offense in pre season.
This has meant lots of check downs and screen plays, and no real signs of trying to stretch the field, which hopefully is more of an indication that Reich wants to get the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly, rather than an indication of Luck’s arm strength.
One thing that was evident from the preseason however is that Luck and TY Hilton still have a special connection. Consistently #12’s number one target, Hilton will be expected to top 1000 yards this year after a down year in 2017 with Brissett at QB. The last healthy Andrew Luck season, Hilton led the league in receiving yards, and will continue to be a threat in the passing game.
Andrew Luck’s less than stellar supporting cast
Aside from Hilton however, the Colts’ receiving corps are rather thin. Ryan Grant was a free agent pickup from Washington but is another smaller guy, whilst the Colts are hoping third year UDFA Chester Rogers has a breakout year as the bigger bodied receiver, in place of the departed Done Moncrief.
Probably the strongest position group on the Colts roster is the Tight End group, which will be good news for Luck. Jack Doyle has shown to be a trusty pair of hands, whilst the Colts also picked up former first round pick Eric Ebron in free agency, so expect to see a lot of 12 personnel sets with both players contributing significantly in the passing game.
One of GM Chris Ballard’s top priorities this offseason was the offensive line, headlined by #6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The 2018 Colts should have the best O-Line that Luck has played behind in the NFL, with the left side of it now consisting of three former first round picks, with veteran free agent guard Matt Slauson slotting in at RG. The RT position still remains an area of concern, but there is optimism that the improved O-Line should help Luck avoid any further injuries.
An improved O-Line should mean an improved running game, however having cut ties with the immortal Frank Gore, it will be the responsibility of Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins and Christine Michael to pound the rock by committee. It is likely that fifth round rookie Wilkins will get the start against the Bengals with Mack struggling with injury. Wilkins has a lot of potential as a three down back, but will have to produce early to relieve the scoring pressure on Luck.
Business as usual for Luck and the Colts
As has been the case for most of his time in Indy, it will be up to Luck to raise the performance levels of those around him this season. He has shown in preseason that his scrambling style hasn’t been affected by last year’s surgery, getting through some big hits against Seattle in the first preseason game, but it will be his arm that will play the major role in the Colts winning games this season. It will be a tough challenge for Luck, but if history is anything to go by, it would take a brave man to bet against him.
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