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AFC South Unanswered Questions: Why Did Andrew Luck Stop Running?

Posted By Nate Dunlevy On January 22, 2013 @ 10:40 am In Colts News | No Comments

Andrew Luck [1] was never going to be Robert Griffin III when it came to running the ball.

From the beginning, it was clear the Indianapolis Colts [2] weren’t going to be installing any special read-option plays to take advantage of the running ability of their star quarterback.

Still, early in 2012, Luck was taking off out of the pocket quite frequently.

Over the first four weeks, Luck rushed 15 times for 105 yards. His rushing was a nice change of pace to the constant deep passing.

After helping the Colts to a surprising 2-2 record, Luck faced off against the New York Jets [3] and something was different.

He didn’t run.

From that game on it, it seemed as if the Colts had pulled back the reigns on Luck’s green light to scramble. After tucking it down and taking off at least four times in three of his first four games, Luck scrambled more than three times in a game just once the rest of the season.

Luck did score four of his five rushing touchdowns after the Green Bay [4] win in the fourth game, but even those all occurred before the half-way point of the season.

Discounting kneel downs, Luck rushed 42 times on the year for 270 yards. That’s better than six yards a carry. He also chipped in five touchdowns and, according to Football Outsiders [5], was among the most valuable running quarterbacks in the league, despite half the carries of guys like Griffin, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.

The big question that has yet to be answered is why Luck stopped running as often.

There are several viable theories.

The first is that he didn’t. The drop in carries, while significant, could have been the result of noise in the data or a change in the way teams played him. While outside observers felt he was staying in the pocket longer or opting to throw instead of run, it’s possible it was all the effect of perception.

A second theory is that the Colts asked him not to scramble. As the season wore on, it looked as if Luck was avoiding runs until key moments in the game. For instance, in the Detroit [6] game, Luck had one carry all day until the incredible game-winning drive. Then he had two important runs for key first downs.

Luck was asked about whether or not the team had put the kibosh on his scrambling but his answers were always vague and non-committal.

It’s also possible that there was more at play than simply an institutional decision to keep him in the pocket. From late October on, Luck appeared on the injury report for treatment to his knee. While the injury didn’t visibly slow him, it does bear mentioning.

One factor in a hypothetical team decision to limit Luck’s running may be the wear and tear he had already received. Luck absorbed a lot of hits in 2012. Though his overall sack rate was respectable, only three quarterbacks took more sacks by volume than Luck.

Was Luck hurt? It’s possible. It’s also likely he was just a little beat up from a season of abuse both in and out of the pocket.

It’s important to note that even if there was an effort by the coaches to keep the leash on Luck, it didn’t affect the season. While it can be argued that the team’s offensive efficiency was limited, other than perhaps the New York Jets game, the Colts didn’t lose any game they could have won.

When games came down to the wire, Luck’s shackles came off and he sprinted for key yards and first downs.

With a new offensive coordinator in place, it will be fascinating to watch the way Luck develops as a runner. He has the potential to be a Steve Young-like figure.

Given the franchise’s investment in him, however, we may never see the full potential of Luck as a runner.

If it preserves his career, that’s not a bad choice.

Read more Indianapolis Colts [2] news on BleacherReport.com

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URLs in this post:

[1] Andrew Luck: http://bleacherreport.com/andrew-luck

[2] Indianapolis Colts: http://bleacherreport.com/indianapolis-colts

[3] New York Jets: http://bleacherreport.com/new-york-jets

[4] Green Bay: http://bleacherreport.com/green-bay-packers

[5] Football Outsiders: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/qb

[6] Detroit: http://bleacherreport.com/detroit-lions

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