Colts’ notebook: Luck-Hilton combination picking up where it left off
WESTFIELD, Ind. – The question swirled as Andrew Luck missed an entire season and tended to his throwing regimen this offseason, and T.Y. Hilton caught passes from quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck.
How long will it take Luck and Hilton to regain their invaluable timing and rhythm once they’re reunited on the practice field?
Based on the first week of training camp at Grand Park, the answer is: not that long.
Luck and Hilton have not been seamless, but it’s clear there’s a serious carryover from having been a vibrant pitch-catch tandem from 2012-16. Luck has shown touch and velocity in getting the football to Hilton at various spots on the field. They’ve been especially sharp on crossing patterns and their patented corner route.
Hilton seemed incredulous when asked about his quick reconnection with Luck.
“It’s just like when you wake up,’’ he said. “You brush your teeth, wash your face.
“It’s easy for us, man.’’
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Luck and Hilton were members of the franchise-shaping 2012 draft class. The Colts rebooted by taking Luck No. 1 overall, then added Hilton in round 3.
While coach Frank Reich was getting acquainted with his new quarterback during the offseason, Luck occasionally mentioned his affinity for Hilton.
“I remember in the offseason Andrew saying on more than one occasion how much confidence he has in T.Y. and how he would say, ‘T.Y. might not always run the route exactly how you were coaching him do it, but I promise you I know exactly what he’s doing. Let’s just let it happen. Let’s not over-coach it. I know what he’s going to do,’’’ Reich said.
Reich mentioned there’s a “fine line’’ when dealing with Hilton.
“We’re going to coach him,’’ he said, “but I do understand there is a unique relationship between those two guys. I’ve been around a few receivers like that.
“The guys that are smart like that and can play instinctively and understand spacing and leverage, they just know how to get open. They body language thing works. They’re just completely in sync.’’
From 2012-16, Luck and Hilton were a combustible combo. Hilton piled up 374 catches for 5,861 yards and 30 touchdowns, and that’s with Luck missing nine games in ’15 and one in ’16.
With Luck out all of last season, Hilton endured his least productive season since his rookie year: 57 catches, 966 yards, four TDs.
For those keeping track at home, Luck dealt with 19 passes in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills Wednesday. That included completing 9-of-11 in team work.
In five full-go practices, Luck has thrown 112 passes.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) was activated off the non-football injury list Wednesday and participated in his first camp practice.
Reich noted the “comfort level’’ the quarterback feels when his starting left tackle returns to the lineup.
“It just breeds confidence,’’ he said. “You’ve got a vet like that who’s been consistent, an excellent player. It just brings a comfort level and a confidence to the whole crew.’’
Castonzo, a 2011 first-round draft pick, has missed just seven of 112 regular-season games in seven seasons.