WESTFIELD, Ind. — It doesn’t take long to read off Jacoby Brissett’s game-by-game snap counts from the 2018 season as the Indianapolis Colts’ backup quarterback.
One snap each in Weeks 1 and 12; eight snaps each in Weeks 7 and 11. That’s it.
Yet, in those 18 snaps — as well as in the preparation he put in for each and every game, including the Indy’s two playoff contests — Brissett still found a way to grow.
And that process has continued through the first week of this year’s training camp, as Brissett continues taking every first-team rep with starter Andrew Luck working his way back from a calf injury.
Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said Brissett’s continued development and leadership is “huge for us as a team.”
“Obviously yeah, we want Andrew out there, but when a guy is getting significant reps, getting the timing down with the receivers, the snap count, the cadence and the calls down with the center and the offensive line – I mean that’s invaluable,” Sirianni said. “I think Jacoby has handled it well. What I think he has really done is gain the trust of everybody in the offensive huddle. They have confidence in him that he’s going to get the job done when he is in there.”
Brissett, of course, was thrown into the fire almost immediately upon being acquired by the Colts in a trade with the New England Patriots at the start of the 2017 season. He was inserted into the game in the second half of Indy’s season opener that year against the Los Angeles Rams, and by the next week he was the team’s starter — a job he didn’t relinquish the rest of the season, despite the fact he was learning the offense on the go.
Last year, Brissett received all of the first-team reps the entire offseason program as Luck worked his way back from shoulder surgery. By training camp, Luck was able to return to more of a full workload in practice, and Brissett was relegated to backup duties. He occasionally got first-team reps during Luck’s off days and saw action in all four of the Colts’ preseason games, completing 35-of-56 passes (62.5 percent) for 395 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions.
But as he continued to learn new head coach Frank Reich’s offense, Brissett found other ways to help. He grew close with Luck and was a trusted confidant in the meeting room and on the sideline. He embraced the locker room and was respected by teammates on both sides of the ball.
After just one season together, Reich concluded: “It’s impossible for me to have a higher opinion of Jacoby than I do.” He said he expressed as much to general manager Chris Ballard this offseason, as the Colts faced the possibility of receiving some trade offers for Brissett as he enters the final year of his contract.
“I said it last year: I think he’s a top-20 quarterback. I still say that. After watching him for a year, this guy’s really good,” Reich told reporters in March at the NFL owners meetings. “I tell Chris all the time, ‘Please don’t let him go. I don’t care what anybody offers him. Don’t let him go.’’
For his part, Brissett isn’t saying much about his contract, trade speculation — or anything else for that matter. He remains laser focused on doing what he can to get the offense, and himself, ready for the season.
“I’m not worried about that,” Brissett told reporters this week. “Just (taking) it one day at a time. Just getting better at this time of the year and that’s the only thing I can focus on.
“It’s year two and you’ve got to make strides,” he continued. “It’s the second year in the system and that’s what I hope to be doing and continue to do throughout this camp.”
Those strides were evident in Thursday’s practice, the Colts’ seventh camp session at Grand Park Sports Campus so far. Early in the day, Brissett threaded the needle on two consecutive big pass plays to top receiver T.Y. Hilton, one on an out route, and the other on more of a sail route.
Then Brissett got into a bit of a zone inside the 20, tossing touchdown passes to running back Marlon Mack and Marcus Johnson. In 7-on-7 work, Brissett completed all four passes, including another touchdown on a dime to running back Nyheim Hines, just over the outstretched arms of All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard.
Brissett was then masterful in a two-minute drill to end the day. Starting at his own 35, he completed 7-of-10 passes (two incompletions were smart throwaways) and moved the ball 61 yards to the opposing 4-yard line, where Adam Vinatieri connected on an easy 21-yard field goal with three seconds left on the clock.
“Really, I think it’s just his ability to process the play, see the defense, know where the ball is supposed to go and throw it on time in rhythm,” Sirianni said of Brissett’s improvement. “I have seen that so many times from him where instead of hitch, hitch, throw – he is hitting his back foot, hitch and throw. So what that does is make our offensive line better because they don’t have to protect as long and it makes our receivers better because they can get that initial separation and then not let the guy catch up. Obviously it makes our third down – everything skyrockets when the quarterback can get the ball on time and I have really seen him skyrocket there as far as his development.”
No wonder the Colts are so comfortable with Brissett running the show for the offense until Luck is able to get back.
“You know, we love all of our players to practice, but what we could just find over the years is that we can’t let anything hold the offense back. Nothing,” Reich said. “And Andrew knows this: sure he’s a great player, but this is a team game and Jacoby is having a great camp so far. He’s taking advantage of the reps he’s getting and that way it’s really good for our team, so we’re full speed ahead.”