INDIANAPOLIS — With Frank Reich calling plays for the Indianapolis Colts for the first time last season, one saw the benefits that come with an offense designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand as quickly as possible.
In 2018, Andrew Luck had a time-to-throw average of 2.63 seconds, which was the ninth-fastest figure in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Compare that with Luck's 2.88-second time-to-throw figure in 2016 — tied for the 36th-fastest among qualifying quarterbacks — and it's pretty easy to see why the efficiency was way up — and the sacks were way down — within Reich's system.
But on Sunday, it's the Colts' defense that is preparing to take on a quarterback who gets the ball out of his hands even faster than those it has been practicing against over the last couple years.
Indy welcomes the Oakland Raiders to Lucas Oil Stadium for their Week 4 matchup, and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr last year tied for the fastest average time-to-throw figure in the NFL at 2.55 seconds.
Through three games this year Carr has been getting the ball out of his hands even faster, with a time-to-throw number of 2.51 seconds, ranking fifth in the league in that category.
A week after struggling to get to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — the Colts failed to register a single sack in their 27-24 victory in Indianapolis — the task gets even tougher on Sunday.
"He's been around the block," Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said of Carr. "He's seen every coverage, almost, and he's made plays in this league. So we definitely have to be ready for him. He can make every throw, he can get the ball out of his hands really quickly, so we have to make sure we're ready for that."
Carr had an efficient outing against the Colts last season in Oakland, completing 21-of-28 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for a score. But Indianapolis would turn in an even better outing on offense, and flew home with a 42-28 Week 8 victory.
Carr's on pace to put up similar numbers to last season so far this year, as he has completed 72-of-98 passes (73.5 percent) for 699 yards with four touchdowns to three interceptions, though Oakland is reeling a bit after losing two straight following its Week 1 victory over the Denver Broncos.
To gain a little bit of an edge this time around, the Colts' defense could lean a little bit on veteran defensive end Justin Houston, who played Carr twice a year for the last five years as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders' AFC West Division rival.
While Houston, who has sacked Carr 4.5 times in seven career meetings, said Oakland's offense has changed things up a little bit compared to last year, the overall goal for those up front remains the same.
"I think Derek Carr for the past couple years has been in the top-three of getting rid of the ball," Houston said today. "So we know he's going to get rid of the ball fast, so the only thing you can do is continue to rush."
Vinatieri still working
Adam Vinatieri's approach didn't change all that much after a rough two-game stretch to begin the season, and it's not going to change now that he has a solid performance to build off of, either.
The 24-year veteran last Sunday hit all five of his kicks — two field goals and three extra-point attempts — and the Colts would certainly need those points in their three-point home win over the Falcons.
Now that the focus has turned to Sunday's game against the Raiders, however, Vinatieri remained just as keyed in as this time last week.
"Every day is just a day you go out there and keep working," he said today. "I'm happy that this last week went well; we've moved on from every other game, and I'm just moving forward and continuing to try to make my kicks."
Reporters today tried to get Vinatieri to detail what mechanical changes he's explored to get things on the right track, and he wasn't budging — "My secrets are my secrets," he answered. But perhaps the mere fact that there are little tweaks and changes made from time to time is a peek into how Vinatieri has been able to be so consistent for so long.
"I think every guy on this team and every guy across the league continues to work on their craft to just be better every single day," he said. "So I'll continue to work on my technique and everything as we move forward, like I've done every other year."
Here's the full injury report from Thursday's practice:
» DNP: CB Pierre Desir (hamstring); WR T.Y. Hilton (quad); S Malik Hooker (knee); LB Darius Leonard (concussion); DT/DE Tyquan Lewis (ankle); DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (neck)
» Limited: DE Jabaal Sheard (knee)
» Full: C Ryan Kelly (illness); S Rolan Milligan (knee); RB Jonathan Williams (rib)
— Both Kelly and Milligan were back to full status on Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice.
— Leonard has now missed five straight practices as he works his way through the league's concussion protocol.