Andrew Luck is off to a terrible start -- and he’s not the only one
This is a strange season for quarterback play so far. Andy Dalton hasn’t had a bad game, Derek Carr looks vastly improved, Carson Palmer is the 3rd-graded quarterback in the NFL and Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford are all among the 10 worst-graded quarterbacks in the league through three weeks of action.
Stafford and Andrew Luck are the two worst-graded quarterbacks in the league at the moment, rooted to the bottom of the PFF rankings, while only a bounce-back performance against the Lions for Manning and Brees sitting out the last game saved them from joining them.
Here’s what’s gone wrong for each of them so far:
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Though he may not be the quarterback he once was, the idea that Brees has become a terrible quarterback are vastly overblown. In the first game of the season, against a good Cardinals defense, he was far from poor, and in the second game against the Bucs he was suffering from a shoulder injury that has kept him out of this weekend’s action and could sideline him for a while. We may have seen the best of Brees, and with the contract the Saints have tied to him his tenure in New Orleans may quickly become untenable, but he isn’t likely to remain at the bottom of the rankings once he gets healthy and back playing.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning’s struggles have been well documented. His arm strength is awful, his decision-making this season has been suspect at times, and he seemed completely ill at ease with the new offense Gary Kubiak brought in. Against the Lions, though, we saw the team revert more to the kinds of offenses Manning has run previously, and he responded with his best game of the season and the first strong game we have seen from him since the Raiders game in Week 17 of last season. Manning’s basic stats were all much healthier — completing 73.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 336 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 102.9, but the most important number from this game was that he had a passer rating of 118.8 when pressured.
Manning for the first time this season looked comfortable within the offense and was only sacked once. If the Broncos run with more of the system Manning is most familiar with going forward then he should climb back up the rankings. The only question is how high he can get back to, and is he capable of his best play anymore?
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck made headline with disastrous play against the Jets a week ago, but he wasn’t a whole lot better against the Titans. In what is perhaps a microcosm of Luck’s career, he was actually pretty good in some big plays in this game, but dug himself a hole with poor decisions on intermediate routes, throwing a pair of picks at that level. His passer rating under pressure in the game was a dismal 20.8, dropping 91.2 points from the plays where he was kept clean (throughout his career, he has actually performed relatively well versus pressure), and like each and every week, the Colts line was leaking pressure like a sieve.
We know Luck can deal with poor pass-protection, and has done so before, but that is when he was playing well. Asking a quarterback to claw his way back from an ugly run of form in the face of some of the worst pass-protection in the league is a tall order. Expect “Bad Luck” to continue for a while if the Colts can’t fix their protection issues.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Like Luck, Stafford is being overwhelmed by pressure and leaky pass-protection. No quarterback has faced more dropbacks under pressure than the 56 Stafford has seen over his first three games. He has been pressured on 40.6 percent of his dropbacks, and yet has only been sacked on 8.9 percent of those pressure plays, because rather than take the negative play, Stafford is trying to force things to happen. Stafford is only completing 40.8 percent of his passes under pressure, and has been picked off twice, with another deflected away from a defensive back, saving him the pick.
The Lions have talented-enough skill-position players that Stafford doesn’t have to carry them, but Manuel Ramirez is the only Detroit lineman who has avoided a negative grade overall through three weeks. If they can’t take some of the pressure off of Stafford, and convince him to force the ball less often, then his grade will only continue to sink.