Andrew Luck, whose shoulder injury sidelined him for the entirety of the 2017 season, went more than 600 days between starts. He's played in each of the Colts' first three games, and while his completion percentage is a career-high 68.5, his 5.3 yards per attempt is a career worst. Those stats, along with Luck's performance, suggest that his arm isn't as strong as it was before the injury.
It also explains why coach Frank Reich decided to replace Luck late in Sunday's game against the Eagles with backup Jacoby Brissett for the sole purpose of chucking a Hail Mary pass into the end zone.
Afterwards, Luck said he had no problem with taking a seat for Brissett -- "[he] has a stronger arm than I do" -- and even conceded that he didn't know if he would've been able to make that throw before the injury.
"I was never in a situation to go out there and do it," he said. "I think in this situation, to be honest, I don't know if I could go out there and do it to run around and scramble, step foot in the ground, and try to chuck it."
But amid concerns that Luck's game is now more Chad Pennington than, well, Andrew Luck pre-2017, the quarterback made it clear he can make every throw despite the lack of deep passes this season.
"I know I'm at a level where I can make all the throws, and I feel confident I'm going out there with my full arsenal. I don't think there's anything physically holding me back," Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star's Jim Ayello. "The [deep passing game] can get better. It can definitely get better. We could probably look back and say if we had a couple more chunks in the first few games, maybe that would swing the tide in a way. But that's probably the truth of looking back at any game. Hindsight is 20-20. So we'll work on it. I'll work on it. Guys up front, too. Wide outs will make sure when those opportunities do present themselves, that we're making the plays."
You can see every one of Luck's deep throws this season here:
All right, so here it is. Every "deep" ball that Luck has thrown in the regular season in chronological order. Some of these are not on the stat sheet because of various penalties. The link is to highlights of his 2016 season, judge for yourself. #Colts https://t.co/ECjTCWfNVv pic.twitter.com/PWMnIiI2Pj— Josh Boeke (@JoshBoeke) September 25, 2018
In 2016, when Luck started 15 games and had a career-best 7.8 yards per attempt, he ranked 11th in total value among all quarterbacks, via Football Outsiders. Through three games this season, he ranks 12th. So now the question becomes: Can Luck be a successful NFL quarterback even if he never fully regains the arm strength he once had?