Newsflash: Andrew Luck is a very good quarterback.
Nothing new, right? Before the 2012 NFL draft most sane people agreed that Luck was a rare prospect for a college quarterback, and many proclaimed him to be the best overall prospect they had seen. Now that Luck's first NFL game is in the books, let's take a look at three traits that separate No. 12 from the rookie quarterbacks we've seen over the last decade.
We hear it said all the time during a broadcast, but what does it mean for the quarterback to look off the safeties?
Luck demonstrated this very well in his first outing. To put it very plainly, he's not locking on to his receivers and showing the safeties where the pass is going. Instead, we'll see him actually lock his eyes onto the safety when the ball is snapped and then move his head and eyes to his targets in a routine manner. He may not throw there, but his eyes are scanning the field constantly to prevent the safety from keying in on where he's going with the ball.
As a former quarterbacks coach, nothing was more important to me than where the ball was placed when thrown. A strong arm can get you out of a lot of bad situations, but if the ball isn't being delivered in a catchable area, strength doesn't matter.
Luck was criticized some before the draft over his arm strength, but he showed good velocity and good ball placement when making throws outside the hashes and even across his body.
If Luck can continue to throw the ball with this much command, he'll have ample time to work on improving his ability to read a defense and perfect the small details of the game.
The advent of the spread passing game has inflated college quarterbacks' numbers and made passing the ball into open spaces easier, but it's also been a disaster when preparing them for the NFL. In a spread passing attack at the college level, quarterbacks are generally receiving a play call from the coaches on the sidelines and making a very fast throw to a predetermined read.
That doesn't happen in the NFL, which is why we see rookie quarterbacks bailing in the pocket and making poor reads early on.
Luck acclimated very well, partially because of the pro-style system he ran at Stanford. The video below shows Luck's ability to move around in the pocket to avoid the pass rush.
What's most impressive here isn't that Luck can move around quickly—we knew that—but that when moving he's keeping his eyes up-field to find an open target and keeping the ball cocked and ready to throw.
Luck looked like a veteran in the pocket against the St. Louis Rams' pass rush.
One preseason game isn't enough to crown Luck as a Top 10 NFL quarterback, but his first outing did reinforce much of what evaluators and scouts saw during his college career at Stanford. If Luck can build on this game, his first season will be a brilliant success.