INDIANAPOLIS – Forget the comparisons between Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. There will be an even sharper similarity at work today.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in town. Some of Rodgers' finest attributes – accuracy, throwing on the run, scrambling for first downs – match the type of quarterback Luck is becoming for the Indianapolis Colts.
“Very similar,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. “Aaron's very mobile, very accurate, got good velocity. Obviously, he can handle a face-paced game or a slow-paced game.
“I think they're very similar in a lot of ways,” Arians continued. “Their size, athleticism. They're very similar. It's a good comparison.”
Some would say it's a premature comparison, and that's a legitimate charge. Luck is a rookie, still feeling his way into the NFL game. Rodgers is in his eighth season, entering it as the NFL's all-time leader in passer rating and the reigning Most Valuable Player.
To his credit, Luck shies away from the comparison, just as he's avoided buying into the compare-and-contrast with Manning or fellow rookie Robert Griffin III.
“I think I've got a long way to go to be compared to Aaron Rodgers,” Luck said. “He's definitely someone I enjoy watching. His command over the offense, when a guy looks covered, Aaron's always done a great job with back shoulder throws. When a tight end is running down the middle, putting it in the right spot or the only spot that it could be caught, and often times it is. It is a lot of fun to watch him play, and watch him make plays with his feet as well. He's a great quarterback.”
Unlike Rodgers, who sat behind Brett Favre when he entered the league, Luck has been thrown into the mix from Day One. He'll have his hands, and his mind, full on Sunday as he prepares for one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. Linebacker Clay Matthews ranks second in the NFL in sacks. The Packers love to bring pressure and will do so especially against a rookie quarterback.
Where Luck also measures up favorably with the best veteran quarterbacks is in his introspection and willingness to study. He was asked this week about his completion percentage being only a little over 50 percent on short passes.
It's become apparent listening to Luck that his mind is as sharp as any rookie, and probably most veterans. He's making mistakes, certainly, but he's also assessing and correcting those mistakes.
“Nothing is easy in this league, as I'm finding out every weekend, every practice,” he said. “(Short pass completions) is something I have to get better at, when a guy's open and there's good coverage, make sure the ball is in a good place where our guy can catch it and the defender can't. I understand, too, that will come with reps, come with time. If I'm not getting better every week, then I think that's where I would start worrying about it.”
Chances are Rodgers will have the better day Sunday, with the Colts secondary beat up and using a third-string player (Cassius Vaughn) at one cornerback spot. It's also uncertain whether rush end Dwight Freeney will play, but he's unlikely to be his sharpest even if he does.
When Rodgers has time, and he's been sacked 16 times this season, he has plenty of receiving options.
The Packers, on the other hand, will try to hamper Luck with some heavy pressure.
Look for Luck to be on the run again, using his feet, not unlike Rodgers. Luck has been sacked five times this season, a number that would have been higher if not for his scrambling ability. Overall, Luck's performance has been so strong he ranks No.1 in ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating. Rodgers ranks 16th in the rankings. In the more traditional quarterback passer rating, Rodgers ranks 11th and Luck 24th.
“They are both guys that were born to play the position,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, summarizing how he sees their similarities.
Someday, Luck could very well be playing the position just as effectively as Rodgers. That day might come sooner rather than later.