The Colts opened training camp with the cornerstone of their franchise on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Now it appears that Andrew Luck could remain on the PUP list for the start of the regular season, meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks, as required for players who start the regular season on the PUP, as he slowly recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Luck told reporters the other day he sees a “light at the end of the tunnel” regarding his rehab. But that light must still be very far away: he’s yet to come close to throwing a football, let alone returning to practice. In fact, apparently he needs to first progress to throwing a tennis ball–something he still hasn’t been cleared to do–before picking up the pigskin.
To say Indianapolis can survive without Luck, even though they have somehow gone 6-4 in the former number one pick’s absence over the past two seasons, is clearly wrong. Luck is essentially Indy’s only hope to make the playoffs. Their offense is weak in many areas, particularly at running back, where they’ll once again rely on a 34-year-old Frank Gore, and on the offensive line, where their pass-blocking ranked in the bottom ten last season.
Their defense is even worse. Indy was dead-last against the run and 26th against the pass last year. And what’s particularly troubling about those figures is that they faced the sixth-easiest slate of offenses, according to Football Outsiders. They also didn’t really add anyone of note this offseason, although the additions of former Giants DT Jonathan Hankins and first round pick Malik Hooker might help.
Most importantly, though, the Colts don’t even have a competent backup QB! Scott Tolzien, who’s second on the depth chart, has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions in his seven-year career. He’s winless as a starter. Behind him is Stephen Morris, an undrafted free agent who has never thrown a regular season pass. I bet Chuck Pagano and new GM Chris Ballard are wondering if Peyton Manning is interested in coming out of retirement.
Even if Luck miraculously returns in time to at least come off the PUP list before the regular season (and therefore maybe miss only a couple starts), the Colts’ prospects this season are still bleak. Indy is likely to go an entire training camp without their starting quarterback taking a meaningful rep. Their roster remains mediocre in many respects. And their division is more competitive than usual, as Tennessee and Houston both could be solid playoff teams this year. Even Jacksonville projects to improve.
In short, I’m selling Colts stock. The latest news on Luck is bad, even if the Indy brass try to downplay it, so there’s a good chance the Colts completely bottom-out this season, particularly if they get off to a slow start before Luck is capable of returning, thus discouraging the front office and coaching staff from rushing him back for meaningless games.
Given this recent development, I’m leaning toward picking Indianapolis to finish last in the AFC South.
Luck photo courtesy of Greg M. Cooper, USA Today Sports