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How Colts can circle the wagons after Andrew Luck's stunning retirement

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 8/25/2019 Matt Williamson, Yardbarker
Andrew Luck holding a camera © Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the NFL preseason has been eventful. There have been some big injuries. Young players have stepped up. In what has been the closest thing to true NFL action, there has been much to take away from this slate of games. But of course, Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement has trumped everything that has happened on the field.

Indianapolis finished 10-6 last year, and after another excellent offseason, the Colts were a hot pick to be the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl. Let's go step by step to examine the ramifications of Luck’s retirement.

What Did Indianapolis Lose? Frankly, the Colts lost a total superstar. Think back to about one year ago. Luck was returning from injury. The Colts had a new head coach in Frank Reich, whom many simply viewed as a consolation prize after Indianapolis was spurned by Josh McDaniels. The Colts used two early picks on offensive linemen, but that group was very untested and could have been the liability that it always had been during Luck’s time in Indianapolis, as Ryan Grigson has done a horrific job building around his generational quarterback prospect. But what did Reich do? He orchestrated a quick-hitting passing attack that allowed Luck to use his great football mind and didn’t tax his recovering arm or protection. That lasted a little more than a month and worked well. Then, after Reich realized that the offensive line was very sound, he had a better feel for the Colts and realized that Luck was throwing the ball extremely well, the coach took the training wheels off. And you know what? Luck truthfully rivaled Patrick Mahomes as the NFL’s best quarterback from that point on. That is how good Luck was last year. That is how good he is right now. This is an astronomical loss.

Video by NFL.com

What Do The Colts Have In Jacoby Brissett?  Brissett is the best backup quarterback in the league. So Indianapolis could obviously be in much worse shape. It is also obvious that the Colts have taken a huge step backward at the sport’s most important position. Brissett was all set up to back up Luck and then go out and test the market…quite possibly finding a starting job. He is a big power thrower with good accuracy. Brissett has learned from some of the best in the business, and he will able to work with a lot of talent in Indy. Here is a prediction: Brissett won’t be on Luck’s level in this offense but he also will quickly prove to be a highly capable starting NFL quarterback.

Will Reich Have To Make Changes?

Well, we have seen that Reich is extremely adaptable in his short, but highly impressive, stint as Indianapolis’ head coach. As mentioned, Brissett has a lot of ability and could be ready to really show the world how good he can be, but he doesn't process reads as quickly as Luck did. Could Reich go for broke and just become highly aggressive with downfield concepts? The protection is in place, and the receiving weaponry is as well. That could happen, but of course the Colts running game will need to be more prominent now. Reich definitely helped Nick Foles fill in for Carson Wentz in Philadelphia by the way.

Frank Reich in a blue shirt standing in front of a crowd © Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Who Else Needs To Step Up? The short answer is: Everyone. This is a team game. The Colts must lean a little more on their running game. Because Marlon Mack might not be able to handle a much larger workload, he could need an assist from Jordan Wilkins. The Colts would also be wise to incorporate Nyheim Hines more as a runner here and there, but especially as a very Brissett-friendly option in the short passing game. Indianapolis is loaded with weapons of all shapes and sizes. Reich and Brissett will have to quickly figure out who their favorites are past T.Y. Hilton. Maybe as much as anything, Indianapolis will have to be very sound in the hidden-yardage aspects of the game, namely turnover margin, penalties and special teams. The Colts apparently upgraded their defense over the offseason, and there is a good young core there, especially in the passing game. But Indianapolis might be playing a different style of game now and could be involved in fewer shootouts. The Colts run defense will have to be up for a larger challenge now without Luck.

How Does This Affect The AFC South? This one is hard to say, but obviously the retirement of Luck gives Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee a far greater chance of winning the South. Houston won the division last year, and even though the Texans lost Lamar Miller tonight as well, Houston's offense looks to very dangerous through the air. The Texans now have the best quarterback in this division by a wide margin. Jacksonville almost has to be better and healthier on the offense, but even so, the Jaguars are still behind a Brissett-led Colts offense. Tennessee is a very balanced team in all regards, but the Titans are still very much connected to Marcus Mariota taking a major step forward. That could happen for sure, and Mariota has more around him than ever, but the Colts should stay very much in the thick of the AFC South race even without Luck. Nevertheless, the Colts are now no longer on the same tier as the top teams in the AFC such as New England and Kansas City.

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