WESTFIELD, Ind. — Andrew Luck’s 2018 preseason debut — his first NFL action in almost 600 days — was, by all accounts, a major success.
Logging 20 snaps and playing early into the second quarter in Thursday night’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, Luck completed six of his nine pass attempts for 64 yards and led the offense on two scoring drives, both of which ended in Adam Vinatieri field goals.
Luck, playing in a game for the first time since undergoing surgery to his throwing shoulder back in January 2017, also was able to take on contact from defenders on a couple different occasions, checking off another key box in his return.
Luck’s Colts would go on to hold off the host Seahawks, 19-17, and wouldn’t get back to Indianapolis until early the next morning.
So how did the body respond?
“I was tired, I was exhausted,” Luck told reporters on Monday. “I think emotionally I was worn out, and honestly it was probably the redeye home after the game. You know it makes you feel things a little extra, turns the volume up, but I felt physically okay, just energy-wise very low.”
But the show must go on, and for Luck, after such a positive first preseason appearance, he knows now’s definitely not the time to slow things down.
For the Colts’ next preseason matchup Aug. 20 against the Baltimore Ravens, Luck said it’s important for the first-team offense to get the ball into the end zone for the first time.
Specifically, while Luck says he’s comfortable with the shorter and more intermediate routes, he also wants to work on nailing down his effectiveness on deeper pass plays.
After missing the entire 2017 season and then sitting out most of the offseason program this year, the simple answer to getting that part of his game completely back is “more reps.”
“Doing individual drills on it,” Luck said. “That’s a little bit of a focus this week.”
Luck’s comfort certainly showed in his preseason debut. His longest pass play of the night was his first: a 17-yard completion to running back Marlon Mack, and that was on a screen play.
Of his final eight pass attempts (one didn’t count due to a defensive penalty): incomplete to T.Y. Hilton (15-yard attempt); complete to Hilton (eight yards); incomplete to Hilton (5-yard attempt); complete to Chester Rogers (behind the line of scrimmage); complete to Robert Turbin (caught at the line of scrimmage); complete to Mack (screen play); incomplete to Hilton (16-yard attempt; pass interference called on Seattle); complete to Jack Doyle (eight yards); and incomplete to Hilton (8-yard attempt).
So while the Colts had some success with yards after the catch, Luck’s pass attempts against the Seahawks only traveled, on average, about five yards past the line of scrimmage.
A big part of that also has to do with the comfort Luck has in his new targets. While he’s played with the likes of Hilton, Rogers, Turbin and Doyle, his two screen passes to Mack represented his only attempts made to a player with whom he hadn’t previously taken the field.
It’s not that Luck hasn’t been building a good rapport with his newer receivers since the start of training camp — he just needs “some more reps with Eric Ebron and Ryan Grant and some of the guys that I don’t quite feel that we’re on the same page 100 percent of the time.”
“That’s part of missing an offseason and all of those reps,” Luck continued. I’m glad to have the practice time now and try to make the most of every day.”
But, as far as the overall goal of establishing a rhythm and getting points on the scoreboard, head coach Frank Reich was pleased with what Luck and the first-team offense were able to do in their 2018 debut.
“Andrew looked good,” Reich said after the game. “That’s exactly what we were hoping to get in terms of him finding a rhythm and moving the ball. Obviously we want to finish in the end zone, have to finish in the end zone, but that was a good start there.”