WELCOME BACK: ANDREW LUCK. If he wants to stay back, though, he needs to change his style of play. Luck is outstanding at prolonging plays from within the pocket, but doing so leaves him susceptible to hits. After recovering for 18 months from a right shoulder injury, he needs to protect himself. While the deep-dropback passing game that new coach FRANK REICH helped the Eagles run last year would seem ideal for Luck, Reich should consider more of the three- and five-step dropback scheme that Philadelphia used in Carson Wentz's rookie year. Luck could thrive in that setup because he excels at presnap reads. The only question would be whether he is patient enough to stick to a dink-and-dunk approach.
Can Indianapolis's O-line, bolstered by the selections of guard QUINTON NELSON (the sixth pick) and guard BRADEN SMITH (37th), lead a rushing attack as successful as the one Reich had in Philly? The Colts have an intriguing headliner in second-year back MARLON MACK, who has the kind of agility and turbo power that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Late in his rookie year Mack also showed a knack for setting up and hugging blocks, a skill that he picked up from the now-departed Frank Gore.
T.Y. HILTON is one of the league's five most electrifying deep threats, but he's not a true No. 1 receiver for one reason: He struggles against press coverage. While Antonio Brown, for example, can align anywhere in a formation, including on an island out wide, Hilton often has to set up inside the painted numbers or go in motion—tactics that force corners to play with a cushion.
There's no point in assessing Indy's defense too deeply. It's so unknown and so thin at so many positions that new coordinator MATT EBERFLUS, hired from Dallas, will likely be toying with personnel into December. You'll see plenty of stunts, twists and D-line slants because Eberflus believes such ploys can mask front-four weakness. The only surefire nickel contributor is second-year free safety MALIK HOOKER—and that assessment may be optimistic, considering that he went on injured reserve seven games into 2017 with a right knee injury.
2017 RECORD 4W 12L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 5W 11L
4th @PATRIOTS [Thursday]
23rd GIANTS [Flex/Saturday]
THE DEPTH behind wideouts T.Y. HILTON and RYAN GRANT is poor, but the hope is that tight ends JACK DOYLE and ERIC EBRON can compensate. Doyle is a flexible, short-area chess piece. Ebron can split out and run receiver-type routes.