While one of the two coveted quarterbacks of the 2012 draft class thrives and works toward a second straight division title, the other is no longer a starter on a last-place team.
The Indianapolis Colts are quite happy about their decision with the top pick in that draft, and Andrew Luck can continue to validate it Sunday when the Colt McCoy-led Washington Redskins visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
Robert Griffin III, who won the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year over Luck, has lost each of his three starts with a 79.3 rating since returning from a dislocated ankle, and coach Jay Gruden announced Wednesday that McCoy would assume the job.
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"My job is to do everything we can to win," Gruden said. "… At this time, I just feel like Colt gives us a better opportunity."
There are no such concerns with Luck, despite a less-than-perfect effort in last Sunday’s 23-3 home win over Jacksonville. Luck was 21 of 32 for 253 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked five times, fumbled four times – losing two – and failed to crack 300 yards for the first time in nine games.
Coach Chuck Pagano placed the blame squarely on Luck’s protection.
"It’s pretty plain," Pagano said. "It was pretty obvious what we needed to clean up."
Injuries have complicated things. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus and tight end Dwayne Allen have both been out of the lineup, and the Colts (7-4) lost a third starter, right guard Hugh Thornton, with a sprained MCL against the Jaguars. Cherilus (shoulder) is expected to face Washington, Allen (ankle) is day to day and Thornton is said to be week to week.
Indianapolis also recommitted itself to the run with a season-best 175 yards on 35 carries. That comes a week after being limited to 19 yards on 16 carries versus New England as running back Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a broken left fibula.
Daniel Herron assumed the starting role and picked up 65 yards on 12 attempts against the Jaguars, but also lost a fumble.
Overall, things just haven’t been quite as smooth for the Colts in the last two games. They’ve averaged 355.5 yards of offense after putting up 473.1 per game over the previous seven.
"We understand there’s stuff to clean up, a lot of stuff to clean up," said Luck, who is still guiding the top-ranked offense in the league (433.8 yards per game). "Some bad balls out there, at times, but that’s what practice is for."
Though the Redskins have the 10th-best total defense (331.0 yards per game) and eighth-best pass defense (230.3 ypg) in the league, quarterbacks aren’t having a ton of issues making their throws count. Opposing passers have 21 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 103.5 rating – 31st in the NFL – against Washington’s defense.
The Redskins’ biggest problem, however, still seems to be their own passing game after Sunday’s 17-13 loss at San Francisco ultimately led to a change under center. Griffin was limited to 106 yards on 11 of 19, numbers Gruden deemed unacceptable in today’s game.
"(It) is unheard of this day and age with the receivers we have, and we have to figure out something," said Gruden, whose team has totaled 20 points in two games.
McCoy has been a reasonable fix in limited action during his first season in Washington. He entered the year as the Redskins’ No. 3 quarterback and took over for Kirk Cousins in October while Griffin was injured. McCoy’s two games – a start in Dallas following a relief effort against Tennessee – resulted in wins with an 85.7 completion percentage and a 107.0 rating.
Pass protection, however, has also been an issue for Washington. Griffin was sacked 16 times in the last three games.
If McCoy is able to remain efficient, the Redskins offense could resemble a functional unit given the rushing contributions it has seen lately. Alfred Morris gained 125 yards on 21 carries against the 49ers and is averaging 5.22 per carry over the past three games.
"I stopped trying to think too much. I said this weeks ago, I was thinking too much," said Morris, who was averaging 3.86 through eight games. "I’ve been playing this game since I was 5. I know how to be a runner. I just stopped thinking and stopped trying to make things happen that weren’t there. Each week has been getting better and better."
In the cases where teams have been able to commit to the run against the Colts, they’ve succeeded. The four teams that have reached the 25-carry mark have defeated them with an average of 148.0 yards.
Indianapolis limited the Jaguars to 194 yards of offense, but it probably needs another strong showing to further instill confidence. The Colts had allowed an average of 526.7 yards and 39.0 points over the previous three weeks.