It’d be a first for Andrew Luck in nine long months. Instead of ruling out the possibility that his star quarterback practices this week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano talked about how Luck “is progressing well, and getting stronger.” The tone has changed, and the team seems ready to trot their $140 million quarterback out on the practice field and see how that surgically-repaired throwing shoulder looks against a defense. Pagano said: “He might be able to start some practice this week. I’m not guaranteeing nothing – so don’t write anything that (says) he’s going to be out at practice. There’s a possibility. When our doctors and trainers tell me that he’s at a point where he can return to practice, then I’ll be sure to tell you.”
Luck has not practiced with the Colts since Week 17 of the 2016 season. He missed all of organized team activities, all of minicamp, all of training camp and every practice since the season began in early September. He admitted early this summer that it’ll be the longest he’s gone without football since he picked up the game as a kid. He began throwing in late July, was placed on the physically unable to perform list for the duration of training camp, and has been seen at practice only once since the season started. What is clear, and a point the organization has stressed repeatedly, is that Luck will need multiple weeks of practice before stepping foot on the field for a regular season game. They want to ensure his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder is sound enough to withstand the rigors of daily practice before they put him in harm’s way. GM Chris Ballard said earlier: “Look, this is a big point. I think we need to think about this with every player, every player needs to practice, needs to be with their teammates, they need to be able to practice and Andrew is going to need the same thing. You know the last couple of years (with Andrew), that’s been an issue. He hasn’t been able to practice. I think Andrew will tell you. I want to get back to where I can practice every day, I can throw to our receivers every day, I can feel the pocket, I can feel the pressure every day.” Pagano hinted last week: “Again, there’s a chance (he practices this week). And if it happens, it happens. There’s going to be a period of time he needs to just practice to get back to playing football.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ high-flying offense hit its stride in the second half of a 28-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. Dak Prescott had one of his best games throwing on the run of his young career. The second-year passer connected twice with Brice Butler, first for a touchdown and later for a massive gain on a drive that ended in a touchdown run from Ezekiel Elliott that crushed Arizona’s comeback hopes. Prescott also rushed for a touchdown, front-flipping over a defender and the goal line in one of his most complete games of the season. He did get some help on a gutsy, 15-yard TD catch by Dez Bryant in the third quarter (coach Jason Garrett said after the game the catch showed how Dez is “all about scratch, claw, battle”). While other components of Dallas’ offense (and defense) still work on putting things together, Prescott is showing his rookie season was no fluke. Dallas found unusual success with base rushes against Arizona’s offensive line, which struggled mightily on the edges and forced Palmer to constantly step up to avoid being sacked. Demarcus Lawrence was a terror off the edge, recording three sacks and getting to Palmer many more times than that. With 6.5 sacks in three games, Lawrence is in the middle of the race for the sack crown as we near the quarter pole. Maliek Collins was right behind Lawrence on Monday night with two sacks of his own.
Just two plays, neither of them a pass breakup or interception, told a story Malcolm Butler will want to hear — a stark contrast to the narrative leading up to the game. In the second quarter, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson fired two passes over the span of three plays to his star receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Both times, Butler was in coverage, and although Hopkins made a 5-yard grab each time, Butler slammed into him with ferocity to keep the gain short. In other words, it was the cornerback Patriots fans have grown accustomed to: aggressive, tenacious, a fighter when the ball comes his way. In the Patriots’ 36-33 win, Watson completed some big-time throws on his way to 301 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, but not much at Butler’s expense. For a secondary that has been shaky at best this season, the Pats need Butler to get back to his usual self, and he appears on his way toward that. Butler said: “I think I’m building. I think I’m taking it a step at a time. There’s a lot of football to be played, so whatever you see, judge me.” He did a fair amount of judging himself last week. On Thursday, he said he hadn’t “been performing at the level (he) should be performing at.” In the win over the New Orleans Saints, Eric Rowe started over Butler. Rowe was inactive against the Texans after being listed on Friday’s practice report with a groin injury. So Butler returned to the starting lineup and also returned to form. Watson did not test Butler much, and the two completions to Hopkins with less than four minutes to go in the second quarter were the first ones he gave up in the game.
Especially considering it was just his second NFL start and he’s 22-years-old, Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson had reason to be encouraged by his performance in a loss to the Patriots. Watson parlayed his elusiveness, athleticism and instincts into a strong game as he pushed the defending Super Bowl champions to the brink. The first-round draft pick from Clemson completed 22 of 33 passes for a career-high 301 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 90.6 passer rating. Watson evaluated: “It’s pretty cool, but that’s why they put me in this position because they feel that I can come help this team out. I’m just doing my job. That was the reason they got me to come here to try to help the team out and just do my job, be the quarterback, make good decisions and try to score points and get wins.” Texans coach Bill O’Brien is adapting his offense to suit Watson’s unique skill set: “I thought Deshaun played his heart out. He works hard. He’s a sharp kid. He’s a fun guy to coach. He gets better every day. He works hard, on his own, with the coaches. He’s a special kid.”