Last week, the Redskins were faced with the difficult task of trying to shut down Arizona Cardinals playmakers David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. They did just that, allowing just a late touchdown to Johnson in a 24-6 opening week victory.
Though the defense looked impressive out west, things won’t get easier in the home opener. Another playmaker is coming to town, and his name is Andrew Luck.
Luck, the seventh-year veteran out of Stanford, has established himself as one of the premier passers in the game ever since he burst onto the scene as the first-overall selection in 2012. While the Redskins had to prepare to stop the rushing and receiving abilities of Johnson and Fitzgerald last week, Luck offers a different skill-set for them to focus on this Sunday.
“His arm, I would say his arm,” cornerback Josh Norman said about what stands out about Luck. “It’s a big arm, one of the biggest arms in the league.”
Norman is spot on. During his time in the NFL, Luck has time and time again displayed his ability to hurt teams through the air, throwing for over 19,000 yards and 134 touchdowns, including a stellar 2014 season in which he led the league with 40 passing scores.
Besides a big arm, Luck is just big in general. Standing a 6-foot-4’ and 240 pounds, he’s not an easy guy to take down, and his deceptive speed (a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) makes him even harder to get on the ground.
“He’s mobile in the pocket,” Norman said. “I just saw one of the plays where one of the D-Lineman went after him and he was just right there, stood hardcore in the pocket. Lineman had him straight head-on, he bounced off the lineman. The lineman completely bounced off him.”
They physical attributes and past performances prove Luck is a force to be reckoned with on the field, the only question marks still surrounding him are his health and rust. Before he took the field last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, no one had seen Andrew Luck throw a football in a regular season game in quite some time.
Due to complications from a shoulder injury that stemmed all the way back to 2015, Luck missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from the injury. For a long stretch of time, he wasn’t even able to throw a football at all.
So, like many other teams, the Redskins do not have a lot of recent game tape to study on Luck. The last time the two matched up was 2014, and both Luck and the rosters have changed a lot. The defense will be able to dissect his impressive opening week performance where he threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns, but one game may not tell the story of where Luck is at now. However, the Redskins do have a guy who knows him pretty well.
"Well, I was there with him for four years,” said defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who headed the defense for the Colts from 2012-2016. “So I understand Andrew.”
While Manusky was coaching the Indianapolis defense for four seasons, he had a pretty good view of what was a stellar beginning to Luck’s career. The Redskins defensive coordinator may be familiar with the Indianapolis quarterback, but he, and the defense, understand that alone will not be enough to limit his playmaking abilities on Sunday. It may give the team an edge, but it won’t be the deciding factor.
"Maybe, maybe it doesn’t,” Manusky said about whether or not his familiarity helps with planning for Luck. “But I’m just saying overall, I love the guy. He’s an incredible person.”
Luck has garnered a lot of respect around the league both from his on-field performance and humble, nice guy personality. He’s even been known to compliment opposing defensive players on the field during the action.
Josh Norman enjoys talking to the opponent as well, and he’s hoping that come Sunday, Luck will toss him a compliment, and an interception or two.
“I mean I’m pretty sure he already knows, you know, give him a look give him a wink or two maybe,” Norman said about challenging Luck to throw the ball his way. “But I am going to try to see if I can, see if he’ll come talk to me a little bit.”