INDIANAPOLIS –Andrew Luck has fared very well in his first two preseason games, leading scoring drives on six-of-11 possessions and helping the club average 31 points a game in starting 1-1.
The Stanford rookie has taken charge of the offense and is showing every capability the club has wanted, including an ability to overcome a tough start last week in Pittsburgh before a national television audience.
After an interception for a touchdown, Luck directed the Colts to the end zone, and he did it again following a second interception that came when an on-target pass was bobbled. He capped off a 17-point second quarter with a two-minute drive that succeeded with a 53-yard field goal at the gun.
Luck has completed 26-of-41 passes for 363 yards, with two touchdowns, while rushing for another. While he faces another tough defense under Washington's Jim Haslett, his own coaches, Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, want to see a couple of things from Luck, too.
"He's done well to this point," said Pagano. "There are a few things in each of the ballgames that we can look at and say, 'We'd like to have this play or that play back.' Things are going to heat up, especially in the regular season, as far as decision-making when the heat's on, when he sees different types of defenses and those types of things, recognition from that standpoint.
"He's really accurate with the ball. Every now and then a few will get away from him, not only in practice but in games. (We'll) just keep working on that, especially deep ball stuff. I think that's more chemistry and timing with the receivers as we move forward and practice more and play more. That will come around also."
Arians helps refine Luck's progress daily. He has been impressed at every turn, yet he wants to see Luck's accuracy jump a small notch. In doing so, it will come in an outing where he will face another true defensive test.
"Overall accuracy," said Arians of the one area where he is looking for a small improvement from Luck. "I think he's been extremely good but just handling the pressure that is going to come on the road again.
"The one thing, we've seen two pretty good blitz teams through the first two preseason games. This one (Washington) will be bringing the house even more so. Just handling that pressure of the blitzes, getting it out of his hand, not taking sacks (is key). He's been doing it extremely well so far."
Luck himself is looking for a little more, too.
"I think continuing to understand the offense. You can tell, or at least I can tell when I'm out there, when you're not sure maybe about the read, that's when bad things tend to happen," said Luck. "The pick six (at Pittsburgh), (I was) just sort of late on the throw, not sure about the read. There you go, six points for the other team. (I need to) just continue to understand the offense.
"Hopefully (I can be) better. I expect to be better. I don't want to take any steps back. I'll probably play a couple of more series or maybe a couple of more minutes and hopefully do things better and keep going in the right direction."
Coaching expectations and those of a competitor are normally high. The stated wishes for small improvements in no way dampens the enthusiasm for how well Luck has adapted and performed. Teammates compliment his style, composure and leadership. It has been on daily display and will continue to grow as the team inches toward the regular season.
Arians as of yet has not seen a moment too big for Luck.
"Oh no. When he bounced back last week I think that's what everybody wanted to see. See him fail and then see what he does," said Arians. "It was great for our football team to see him basically fail in the first quarter and then take over the second quarter. We should have had 21 points. But he bounced back, never phased him, never blinked, and he was extremely successful I thought in the ballgame."
Luck himself has not felt overwhelmed at all to this point.
"No, it's been fine," said Luck. "Granted, we're only two preseason games in, but it's been great so far. When you have great teammates, it makes things a lot easier."
In leading his team through a "typical" preparation week in getting ready for Washington, Pagano identified how the team prepares for an opponent during the regular season.
"What we try to do in the third preseason game is (implement), if you will, especially for the young guys, a typical regular season week," said Pagano. "A normal Wednesday is first- and second-down, a little bit of third-down and nickle stuff, maybe a dash of red zone. Thursday you come in and do a ton of third-down, a little bit of red zone. Friday is a goal-line, short-yardage, red zone day and you slap a couple drives together.
"So what we try to do is simulate the meetings, the walk-through, the practice schedule in the afternoon, just like you would in the regular season."
Luck commented during the week that he noticed a little more game preparation by the staff. He liked seeing the rhythm of a regular season week and knowing how the system operates. He provided a quip when asked when he hoped to grasp the offense fully.
"I wish it was by this practice today (Wednesday). I'd better be ready by week one against Chicago. I owe it to all the other guys who have been busting their butts trying to get the playbook down."