Indianapolis Cols quarterback Andrew Luck did some amazing things in his rookie season. Fellow rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson may have stolen a lot of the attention by facing one another in the first round of the playoffs, but Luck leading his team to the postseason was far more impressive, as he completely turned the Colts franchise around in a single year. But as impressive as Luck was last year, if the Colts expect to get back to the playoffs this year they need to get Luck some help around him, because there’s only so much their star quarterback can do on his own.
In terms of the offensive skill players around Luck, the Colts lost Donnie Avery in free agency, after he had the second most receptions on the team last year, but in they also added wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey should become a prime target for Luck and headline the Colt’s corps of receivers, along with the ageless Reggie Wayne, and youngsters T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. On paper, the group looks promising, but whether or not Heyward-Bey can adapt quickly to a new team, how much Wayne has left in the tank, and how much improvement there will be from Hilton and Brazill are all variables to look out for that will determine how good Indy’s receivers are this season.
Even if he doesn’t have an elite group of receivers, Luck is talented enough to make plays no matter who he’s throwing the ball to, but one thing that is harder for him to make up for is a bad offensive line. Luck was under constant pressure last year and ended up taking a lot of hits the Colts would prefer their young quarterback not take. In free agency, the Colts added guard Donald Thomas and tackle Gosder Cherilus, both projected starters. Cherilus and third year left tackle Anthony Castonzo should help protect Luck on the edge, while Thomas will team up with center Samson Satele to help give Luck time and space to step into his throws. Indianapolis also added depth to their offensive line in the draft with Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes. After last year’s unit was a disaster, this year’s offensive line should be much improved and better at keeping Luck off his back.
Luck will no doubt be appreciative of the improvements made around him on offense, but there’d be a lot less pressure on him if the Indianapolis defense were better, after finishing 21st in the league against the pass and 29th against the run last year. During the offseason, the Colts made changes to all three levels of their defense. Up front, they added Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean Francois; on the edge they added Erik Walden and rookie Bjoern Werner to help make up for the loss of veteran Dwight Freeney; and they added safety LaRon Landry to the secondary, while also adding depth at cornerback. Those are all significant additions to the defense, but it also creates a lot of moving parts, and even with an infusion of veteran talent the Colts are a long way from being a good defensive team. Of course, after how bad the defense was last season, Luck and the offense will likely settle for Indianapolis having just an average defense, which is possible with the additions they’ve made.
The goal for the Colts heading into the offseason should have been to give Luck some support, and for the most part they accomplished that. The offensive line should be improved, the addition of Heyward-Bey gives Luck another receiving target, and the defense should be significantly less futile than last season. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy for Indianapolis to return to the playoffs in 2013, but at least now, the fate of the team doesn’t rest entirely on Luck’s shoulders, which will be a welcomed relief for the young franchise quarterback.