One of the more annoying narratives leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft offered a flawed over-generalization of the year’s top quarterback prospects. Andrew Luck was pegged as the pure pocket passer of the group, while Robert Griffin III was cast as the “athlete.”
Weeks into the nascent NFL season, this typecasting has been exposed. Griffin III has shown exceptional skills throwing the ball, complementing his running ability. Luck, too, has shown there is more to his game than his ability as a passer, showing impressive mobility through three games.
Griffin III’s exploits have been well-documented thus far, but Luck’s ability on the move has gotten less attention.
Through four weeks of the season, Luck is fourth in the NFL among quarterbacks in rushing yards. In terms of yards per attempt among players at the position, Luck is second with 8 yards per rush (behind only Jack Locker, who has 8.38 yards per attempt).
The Indianapolis rookie tops all NFL quarterbacks in terms of the Rushing EPA aspect of ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating metric, with a weighted expected-points-added total of 8.6 on rushing plays (ESPN’s formula is explained here; refer to AdvancedNFLStats.com for more on the concept of EPA).
Impressive as these rushing figures might be, they do not tell the whole story.
Behind an offensive line that can be called patchwork at best, Luck has only been sacked on 3.9 percent of his drop backs, which is the fifth best percentage in the league, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com (Houston’s Matt Schaub leads the league, having been sacked on only 2.4 percent of his drop backs; Griffin III is 20th, with a percentage of 6.8).
The figures look even better when contextualized by looking at just how poor the Indianapolis offensive line has played. Luck has faced more than 14.6 pressured drop backs per game, the fourth-highest total in the league.
Despite facing this high volume of pressure, he has only been sacked on 11.4 percent of these pressured drop backs. This is good for the fifth best total in the NFL in this regard. By comparison, Griffin III is 18th in the league, with an 18.9 percent adjusted sack percentage (statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com-subscription required).
Referring back to ESPN’s Total QBR formula and looking at Sack EPA this time, Luck again leads all NFL quarterbacks.
It goes without saying that mobility is not the only aspect of avoiding sacks, as release time and pocket awareness are crucial as well (Luck’s predecessor Peyton Manning consistently ranked among the league’s best in sack percentage, despite mobility that was limited, to put it kindly).
That said, the Colts offensive line has certainly put Luck’s legs to the test, forcing him on the move at an alarming rate. The rookie quarterback has answered the challenge thus far, showing a skill that many had overlooked, giving Colts fans more reasons to be optimistic about their new signal caller.