49ers vs. Colts: The often under-appreciated athleticism of Andrew Luck

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers face a quarterback in Andrew Luck who is much more athletic than he is sometimes credited. We take a look at what makes him such a great athlete. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Through two weeks, the 49ers have faced two fairly different quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers has some athleticism, but is more of a pocket passer, while Russell Wilson has built his game around a strong arm and great speed and maneuverability in and out of the pocket.

As the 49ers prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, it can be easy to overlook the athleticism of their quarterback, Andrew Luck. He has the build of a pocket passer, but Luck is much more maneuverable than he sometimes gets credit for. I think people have done a better job understanding the complete package he brings to the table, but it's still interesting to look at some of the specifics.

Back in 2012, when he went through the various Combine drills, he actually ended up with numbers not to far off from Cam Newton the year before. He was less than 1/10 of a second slower in the 40, and matched him in the vertical and broad jumps. Both are big guys, but Cam is looked at in a more athletic bent. The Panthers have utilized Newton in more situations where his speed and athleticism can be shown off, but Luck has the skills to match Newton, and other such quarterbacks.

Luck spoke with the Bay Area media earlier this morning, and was asked if he ever envied the read option quarterbacks for what they can do. His response:

I know I can't do that. I'm definitely not athletic enough. There are some unbelievable athletes in the NFL but I try to make do with what my parents and God gave me and work hard.

Jim Harbaugh was asked about Luck's athleticism:

"I don't buy that he doesn't have the athleticism. He is a, for lack of a better term, a freakishly good athlete. He's a lot faster than you think he is and he's really fast. Stronger than he looks, but then you see the evidence on the tape where guys are hitting him pretty solid, pretty hard and he's able to just flinch it off, kind of [Steelers QB Ben] Roethlisberger-like. He throws with a lot of velocity even though it's a throwing motion it's pretty smooth. Ball comes out a lot faster than you think it does and with a lot more velocity than you think. Just very, very blessed athletically is Andrew."

The Roethlisberger comparison makes sense to a certain degree. I think he is more maneuverable than Roethlisberger, but there is a certain similarity in how Luck is able to use his size effectively.

Luck will not be easy to bring down on Sunday, and that should make for an interesting time watching Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and others coming at him. This reminds me of one of his most impressive runs from college:

I don't think he'll have as easy a time throwing off guys like Aldon and Ahmad, or Justin Smith for that matter, but it adds at least some level of degree of difficulty for the defense. And while they will not necessarily need to "spy" Luck, they cannot just assume he will stand in the pocket all day. He's a guy who will take off if the opportunity presents itself. The 49ers will have to maintain discipline in the face of this.

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