Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who has avoided any serious injury during his first two seasons under center, has been tagged by Grantland's Bill Barnwell as the team's Iron Man.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the team's Iron Man.
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This is what Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell tagged Luck in his Aug. 13 article, as Luck leads all NFL quarterbacks with a total of 237 hits absorbed over the past two NFL seasons but never gets injured:
"Luck certainly looks as big as many of the players who are trying to hit him. Does that make him more likely to absorb hits and stay healthy? Or does it slow him down and create more sacks by virtue of an inability to get away from tacklers?
"One of the issues with answering this question is that quarterback knockdown data basically doesn't exist. While the NFL has sack data going back through the early '80s, the league started tracking quarterback knockdowns on plays that didn't result in a sack only a few seasons ago, and there are still disparities from stadium to stadium on how likely given scorers are to track hits.
"ESPN Stats & Information has hit data going back through 2010. The Football Outsiders numbers make it very clear that Luck gets hit more than anyone else in football, but he doesn't get sacked on a notably frequent basis; his 5.7 percent sack rate over the past two seasons is slightly above average. Many other passers who are hit on a regular basis in the table above, though -- Tannehill, Flacco & Co. -- get sacked at a higher rate than the league average. Given the data shortage, we have to use sacks as a proxy for hits.
"Now we need to put Luck's size in content. He's big, but how big exactly? And to compare him to players from other years, we need to adjust weights for the era in which they played. To do that, I used the average height and weight of the defenders on the first-team All-Pro squad (again as listed b Pro-Football-Reference.com) as a proxy figure to figure out the height and weight of the typical defender a quarterback might face.
"Then, I compared the quarterback's listed weight to that of the average defender before putting the resulting figure into percentiles. And then I did the same thing for height.
"In context, Luck is big, but he's not extraordinarily big. His adjusted height is in the 50th percentile for starting quarterbacks since 1970, while his adjusted weight is in the 90th percentile. That doesn't even leave him among the top five largest quarterbacks by weight percentile in football last season. Cam Newton (99th percentile), Nick Foles (98th), Ben Roethlisberger (96th), Josh Freeman (96th), EJ Manuel (93rd) and Sam Bradford (91st) are all larger than Luck.
"Those guys weren't the picture of health! Newton threw every pass for the (Carolina) Panthers last year, but he has the only unimpeachable resume of health in that group. Roethlisberger played in all 16 games for just the second time in his 10-year career. Foles missed a game with a concussion after breaking his hand the previous year. Manuel missed six games with a variety of knee ailments. Bradford tore his ACL. I guess Freeman technically stayed physically healthy, although he might have been better off faking an injury...
"...Do these comparables mean Luck is due to get injured or unlikely to stay healthy going forward? Not at all. What it tells us in the face of imperfect data, though, is that being big enough isn't reason to assume you'll stay healthy. If Luck is going to continue to be a guy who suits up for 16 games a year like clockwork, it's simply going to be because, he's talented, has incredible instincts, and has a faint touch of, well, luck.
"If the Colts can do something to help keep their quarterback unmolested and healthy, it would be avoiding obvious passing situations. That's where teams tee off on Luck. On first and second down last season, ESPN Stats & Information's numbers note that Luck was pressured on 24.5 percent of his drop-backs. On third down, the figure rose to 32.9 percent.
"And then, more notably, Luck gets attacked on third-and-long. On third down with 7 yards or fewer to go in 2013, Luck was pressured just 23.0 percent of the time. With 8 yards or more required for a new set of downs, that figure more than doubled, as Luck was pressured on 47.8 percent of his drop-backs. More on those schematic problems when Andrew Luck Week concludes on Friday."
On Aug. 12, ESPN's "Numbers Never Lie" (via The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Glenesk) program presented some numbers which suggest Luck may well be on his way in becoming the NFL's best quarterback:
"ESPN's 'Numbers Never Lie' sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of ESPN programming with 'Around the Horn,' 'Pardon the Interruption' and 'First Take.' The show is statistics-driven (hence the name), but is presented in an easy enough way for fans to digest thanks to hosts Michael Smitha and Jemele Hill.
"On Tuesday, the show welcomed comedian and impersonator extraordinaire Frank Caliendo for a segmen titled, 'Will Andrew Luck become Best QB in NFL?'
"That's one way to get your attention.
"While Caliendo provides some comedic commentary impersonating the likes of ESPN personalities Ron Jaworski, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Mike Ditka, and of course, former FOX broadcaster John Madden, Smith and Hill lay out the statistical case for the Colts quarterback becoming the league's best signal caller.
"Smith and Hill note that over the last 20 years, nine QBs taken No. 1 overall made at least 10 starts in their third season and each of those nine recorded career-highs in touchdown passes. In addition, those third-year QBs saw a 17 percent increase in passer rating and a 12 percent increase in yards per game.
"'If Luck matches those increases, he'll throw for 4,500 yards with a passer rating of 95. Only Peyton Maning and Drew Brees did that last year.'
"Not bad company."
Luck has thrown for 8,196 yards, 46 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in 32 career regular-season games, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.
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