INDIANAPOLIS — Compared to this time last year, the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback situation is night and day.
Last year, the plan was for Scott Tolzien to start and hold down the fort until Andrew Luck returned from offseason shoulder surgery. The team had just acquired promising, young New England Patriots passer Jacoby Brissett in a trade, and they had undrafted rookie free agent Phillip Walker on the practice squad.
Now, Luck is back and looks like his old self, Brissett is among the best backup quarterbacks in the league and Walker has shown undoubtable development.
Last preseason, Walker had obvious rookie growing pains, but his growth this summer is part of the reason the Colts' quarterback situation looks as good as it does now.
"Absolutely. I've just been going out there, enjoying it and having fun," Walker told reporters after Thursday's game when asked if he feels more comfortable this year. "Last year, I think I was pressing too much. Whether it was preseason or practice, I was trying to do a little too much. I expect a little too much from myself. I was just trying to have fun."
One thing Walker is proving capable of this time around is processing defenses and moving the offense alongside him.
On Thursday night, with about six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and his team down 26-14, Walker began his comeback.
First up: a nine-play, 76-yard drive punctuated with a seven-yard touchdown strike to tight end Erik Swoope.
On the Colts' following drive, Walker had a play he'd like back as he tossed an interception, but it didn't take him long to rebound.
He threw for another score on their following (and final) drive of the night to chalk up a come-from-behind victory to conclude the preseason.
With just over a minute remaining — the ball on the Bengals' 28-yard line — Walker hung in the pocket with pressure barreling in on him and let the ball fly down the left side, placing it right into receiver Cobi Hamilton's midsection as he entered the end zone.
The throw capped a career day for Walker, who completed 19-for-31 passes (61.3 percent) for 263 yards, two touchdowns and the interception, good enough for a 96.6 passer rating. It was his most action of his preseason, as Walker came in for Brissett shortly into the second quarter.
Overall this preseason, Walker completed 30-for-49 passes (61.2 percent) for 446 yards, four passing touchdowns and two interceptions for a 101.2 passer rating. He also added 29 yards on 10 carries.
Walker's passing yardage and touchdown totals both led the Colts this preseason, and he also ranked 10th in the NFL in passing yardage and tied for second in touchdown passes.
"It feels great, no matter if it's the preseason or the regular season," Walker said following Thursday's win. "Just to go out there and play with these guys, it feels great. Just getting used to these guys and getting comfortable, I enjoyed every minute of it."