- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2018

ASHBURN — Greg Manusky knows Colts quarterback Andrew Luck well. Before he joined Washington, the Redskins defensive coordinator spent four seasons in Indianapolis — starting in 2012, Luck’s rookie year.

The Colts, though, fired Manusky after the 2015 season, a year in which Luck played only seven games en route to an 8-8 season.

“The only reason he’s not there is because Andrew wasn’t playing,” cornerback Josh Norman said with a laugh.

With the Redskins set to face the Colts on Sunday, Manusky has partially relied upon his familiarity with Luck to help his defense prepare for the quarterback.

There are two notable differences, however, surrounding the Colts from Manusky’s time in Indianapolis: First-year coach Frank Reich has installed a new offensive system and Luck is still rounding into form after a torn labrum sidelined him for all of 2017.

In a Week 1 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, Luck hardly showed signs of rust — throwing for 319 while completing 73 percent of his passes. Luck, too, threw a league-high 53 times.

Norman said it’s too early to tell if Luck will be the same quality of quarterback pre-injury, though added the early signs are positive.

“His arm is a big arm, one of the biggest arms in the league and how he’s able to attack defenders,” Norman said. “He’s able to move, he’s mobile in the pocket. I just saw one of the plays where one of the d-linemen went after him … he bounced off the lineman. The lineman completely bounced off him. So I was like, ‘Gosh, he’s a big fella.’

“There’s going to have to be a gang of them just to take him down. So knowing that, and knowing his reads his keys pretty well, we’ve got a task on our hands for him.”

Since being drafted out of Stanford, Luck has been known for his ability to withstand punishment. Hyped as the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, Luck delivered — taking the Colts to the playoffs for three straight seasons and posting strong statistical performances.

But eventually, the hits caught up with Luck. The quarterback suffered a number of injuries in 2015, including a shoulder injury that required surgery.

The Colts plan to keep Luck protected and healthy under Reich’s new system. The Colts coach told reporters in February he planned for the team to have an up-tempo offense in order to be aggressive.

Releasing the ball quickly should also keep Luck upright. He did that on Sunday, averaging just six yards per attempt, which would be a career-low if that number stays the same through the course of the year.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said the Colts upgraded their offensive line, pointing out they drafted first-round guard Quenton Nelson and have center Ryan Kelly and tackle Anthony Costanzo healthy again.

“I think with the protection a little bit better, I think you’ll see him a lot more comfortable,” Gruden said. “There was a time where he was battered pretty good, as far as protection is concerned, but I think it’s getting better and better which will make him a lot better.

“He still has plenty of arm strength and accuracy with the football and great movement in the pocket.”

Last season, the Redskins particularly struggled with mobile quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Alex Smith. Luck isn’t afraid to use his legs and will be a good test to see if this year’s defensive unit can do a better job of containing opposing quarterbacks.

“The best thing he does is get out of the pocket and tries to make plays,” Manusky said. “We understand that because I was there with him for four years, but overall, a great player; can make all the throws, favorite targets across the board.

“He’s got a bunch of guys that he can go to. He’s an experienced quarterback that we have to defend on Sunday.”

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