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Is Andrew Luck The Best Running Quarterback In The NFL?

Posted Jun 26, 2014

Intro: With a new age of quarterbacks establishing themselves in the NFL, the handful all has an ability to impact the game with their legs. Where does Andrew Luck fall in line as a running quarterback?



INDIANAPOLIS – The attributes Andrew Luck possessed when coming out of Stanford back in 2012 were extensive.

Where exactly his running ability fell on that list isn’t known but ask any opposing defensive coordinator, and they will tell you how back-breaking Luck’s usage of his legs have been in two NFL seasons.

How quickly people forget that Luck ran a 4.6 40-yard dash back at the 2012 NFL Combine, to go with his current 6-4, 240-pound frame?

That package allowed Luck to run for a first down on 51.1 percent of his 45 rushing attempts (non-kneel downs) in 2013.

During the offseason, Andy Benoit of MMQB did some extensive research in analyzing the running prowess of Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.

The piece is terrific in seeing how these five young quarterbacks have used their legs to impact games.

Here’s a breakdown of the sacks taken by each player, along with the scrambles for each, with Benoit offering his perspective after evaluating the tape.

I took the opportunity to break down every run by Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck from the 2013 regular season. Each player, save for Luck, had about 100 rushing attempts. After watching them all in a row, you start to notice patterns. I charted those patterns, focusing on (a) how successful each player’s scrambles and designed runs were, and (b) whether the scrambles stemmed from good or bad decisions.

Sacks

 

Player

Sacks Taken

QB at Fault

Pct. QB at Fault

Luck

36

0

0.0%

Newton

47

9

19.1%

Kaepernick

37

8

21.6%

Griffin III

38

10

26.3%

Wilson

48

15

31.3%

 

That’s right: Luck was not the primary culpable offender for a single sack he took. The extremity of that statistic—ZERO!—is surprising, but the gist of it is not. Quarterbacks who keep their eyes downfield and move in the pocket with near-perfect mechanics don’t create their own sacks.

Scrambles


A “correct decision” scramble was any scramble caused by pressure or no receivers getting open. An “incorrect decision” scramble was when the quarterback blatantly abandoned a play design that worked. A “successful” scramble was something like, say, a first-down run that gained four-plus yards, or a third-down run that moved the chains.


Player

Scrambles

Good Decision

Pct. Good Decision

Successful

Pct. Successful

Luck

44

39

88.6%

33

75.0%

Kaepernick

55

41

74.5%

34

61.8%

Wilson

55

40

72.7%

33

60.0%

Griffin III

34

22

64.7%

16

47.1%

Newton

41

25

61.0%

30

73.2%

Also, 18 of Luck’s “rushing attempts” were kneel-downs. Take those out and his yards per run goes from 6.0 to 8.8. (Luck, however, attempted just 45 runs to Wilson’s 78.)

The takeaway
: About one out of four times, a young running quarterback will make a poor decision to scramble or do something to get himself sacked. That is, unless he’s Andrew Luck, who is basically a 10-year veteran in his approach to running with the ball (and treated as such; notice the Colts did not jeopardize his safety with designed run calls). In terms of efficiency, which is crucial to quarterbacking, Luck was clearly the best of this bunch—and that’s just in the running department.

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