Make It Reign
Which new kid on the block will stand tallest in their inaugural NFL Season; Andrew Luck or RG III?
By Steven Rivers
Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will forever be linked due to their draft selection and being handed the proverbial “keys to the car” in their rookie seasons. Not only will the two gun-slingers see the most professional action to date, but they’ll be put to a [real] test by facing their opponents’ starting defensive units for likely three quarters. On paper, it would seem as though Luck would have the more difficult task as he faces an up-and-coming Redskins defense that ranked 12th in the league, last season. But, a 26-24 loss to Pittsburgh proved that Luck is ready for the challenge. Luck displayed poise in the pocket and took command of his offense reminiscent of Peyton Manning. Despite throwing two interceptions, including one that resulted in an Ike Taylor touchdown return, the Stanford prodigy responded with back-to-back scoring drives. The #1 overall pick capped off his day with a last second drive in the first half that put his team up, after an Adam Vinatieri 52-yard field goal. Although Luck’s final stat line (16-25 175, 2 INT’s, Rush TD) didn’t read as though the outing was a success, the display of maturity by the 22-year-old told a completely different story. It’d be foolish to think Luck would’ve been as perfect as he was in the first game against St. Louis (10-16 288, 2 TD’s), for the second week in a row versus a top ranked Steelers defense.
Not to be outdone in week one, RGIII also looked virtually flawless in limited action versus the Buffalo Bills by posting 70 yards and a touchdown on 4-6 passing. Following a nearly effortless game, RGII hinted at the game being “easier” than practice. After a bout with the Chicago Bears, the Texas native may be singing a different tune. The “Monsters of the Midway” hounded Griffin for each of the six drives he led, sacking the Heisman trophy winner three times and forced him to turn the ball over (fumble). The ‘Skins only totaled three points with their starters in the game, as RGIII never looked comfortable in the pocket. “We never got into a rhythm” he said, following the 33-31 loss. While these bumps in the road will surely happen again for each QB, how they respond is what will make the difference.
So, who’ll be the better quarterback this year? There are several things that will decide how far each signal-caller can go. Let us first examine the offensive line on each team. Washington surrendered 41 sacks to their opponents, with Indy not far behind at 35. The bad part about this particular statistic; RGIII will be playing behind the exact same line that was tied for 10th most in the league. The Colts, on the other hand, will feature a revamped O-line that returns only one full-time starter from last year’s lackluster unit. The interception totals reflected a greater disparity between the two franchises (Wash – 24, Ind – 14). While much of that has to do with the play of the QB in question, the amount of duress that a player is under due to defensive pressure plays a major factor in terms of turnovers.
Along with the play of the offensive line, the receiving talent and ground game surrounding the first two overall picks will also be a determining factor in their individual success. RGIII has a clear advantage in his supporting cast, which features young and talented players in running back Roy Helu, tight end Fred Davis, and wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson. Washington also has veteran leadership in wideout Santana Moss and hybrid tight end Chris Cooley. If the Skins can manage to keep their franchise QB upright and healthy, they should have no problem putting up points by the bundle, whereas the Colts may not find as much “luck” in that department.
Aside from veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, Andrew Luck is completely surrounded with unproven talent. Although they’ve shown flashes at times, wide receivers Austin Collie and Donnie Avery have virtually lived on injured reserve. Collie is only 26 and is currently contemplating retirement after suffering his fourth concussion in 21 months, while Avery remains sidelined with a hip injury. The bright side to the Colts’ offense can be found in tight end Coby Fleener, who is Luck’s college teammate and best friend. If the Stanford connection is going to thrive, they’ll also need speedster LaVon Brazil to continue his growth. The University of Ohio product has caught five passes for 63 yards in two preseason games, while playing exclusively with the first team offense.
The third and final factor facing the rookie quarterbacks will be their team’s strength of schedule. On paper, Indy faces the 14th toughest schedule in the league, while the District of Columbia comes in at 24th. Despite their rankings, the NFC East as a whole has always been one of the toughest divisions in the league. Six of Washington’s final 10 games will be against their division, including match-ups against Baltimore and Pittsburgh; Ouch! Drew will face a tough road as well, with his final four games coming against teams that ranked in the top 10 in total defense last season.
With all things considered, who has the better season?
Statistically speaking, Andrew Luck should have the better season, but RGIII should finish with a better record. The reason being; RGIII has the support of a defense that ranked 12th in the league last season, and is only getting better. A good defense and talented supporting cast should allow the Skins to play with a lead more often than the rebuilding Colts. Luck will have the better numbers due to the offense running completely through him. With an underwhelming running game and a suspect defense, the 22-year-old will be forced to pass the ball excessively in order to keep his team in games. If the game against Pittsburgh was any sign of things to come, the former Stanford qb will surely keep his team [surprisingly] competitive throughout the season.
Andrew Luck will challenge Cam Newton’s 4,000 yard passing total from last season and produce 27 total TD’s, while the Colts finish 4-12 on the season. RGIII will finish with about 3,800 total yards and 25 TD’s, while the Skins finish 5-11.