Lost in the daily media circus surrounding RG3’s knee and press conferences, Cam Newton’s sorry sideline body language, and the debate over whether Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick is the king of the NFC West, is the fact that Andrew Luck is the best of the NFL’s young quarterbacks.
There is a simple reason for this: Luck is better from the pocket than any of the other four young signal callers – and it isn’t even close.
There is the on-going debate in the NFL over whether the read option (often featured in the offenses of Kaepernick, Newton, RGIII and Wilson) is here to stay or just a novelty. Both sides of the argument have validity. The thing is, there is no debate over whether pocket passing is here to stay. There are no Sportscenter segments on how to stop the pocket passer. Simply put, there isn’t one way to stop a pocket passer. It isn’t a style of play that’s a novelty or a system that’s susceptible to a certain defensive design alone.
Andrew Luck might only have a little more than a season under his belt, but he already possesses the pocket-passing skills of a ten-year veteran.
The most impressive thing about Luck is his ability to constantly maintain a downfield focus. Whether he’s forced to scramble or has to sidestep a defender and hang in the pocket, he rarely loses that focus. This is a skill that can’t be taught overnight. It takes years of game experience and putting that skill into practice.
Undisciplined quarterbacks break down when faced with pressure. Instead of feeling the pass rush and only moving to avoid it while keeping their vision downfield, they leave the pocket, often unnecessarily. They lose their downfield vision while avoiding defenders as they scramble, only to regain it late in the play, cutting off a large part of the field and thus limiting their options.
Not Andrew Luck.
In his rookie season, Luck maintained that downfield focus at all times. Where he got in trouble was with resetting his feet. He’d throw with his feet close together, his base gone, and he’d miss some open receivers as a result. But footwork alone is much easier to adjust. And as we’ve seen this season, Luck’s footwork has improved. He’s shown the ability to move and reset quickly, maintaining his base, leaving the entire field open to him.
Just as impressive is Luck’s ability to play the position from the pocket as if no defenders are even around him. He’s able to read through his progressions and make tough throws from tight spaces, knowing he’s about to get hit as the defensive pressure collapses the area around him. He can win late in the down from the pocket, something of which only the game’s best are capable.
Luck does have room to improve. His accuracy is sometimes erratic, for instance. He makes some outstanding and mature throws, but will then follow those by missing a wide-open receiver inexplicably.
However, Luck has all of the qualities in a quarterback that are difficult and often impossible to teach. The fixes that he needs to make are with technique. Teachable things. Once he’s mastered those, he’ll be among the best if not the best quarterback in the game.
Many in the media will base their arguments about the best young QB’s on head-to-head matchups. Should Colin Kaepernick play better than Luck in their Week 3 matchup, he’ll be viewed as the better QB. This is over-simplified thinking. It doesn’t take into account a quarterback’s surrounding team as well as circumstances out of his control. Not once during Sunday’s game will Kaepernick and Luck be on the field at the same time. They are not playing against each other. They are not preparing for this game by studying tape of the other quarterback. Resist the urge to rank these quarterbacks by the final score of one game. Judge them by what they put on film week in and week out.