INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jacoby Brissett views Thursday night’s preseason finale a little differently than everyone else.
He considers this seemingly meaningless game his golden ticket.
With Andrew Luck’s work finished, Brissett is expected to make his first and possibly final start of the season at Cincinnati. And if all goes well for the Indianapolis Colts, Brissett may not even throw another official pass this year.
So for the third-year quarterback who started 15 games last season, this is more than a final tuneup — it’s a chance to show everyone how much he’s learned over the past 8½ months.
“I’ll prepare for Thursday’s game like I was starting in the Super Bowl,” he said.
Of course, Brissett takes his job seriously.
How else would a youngster manage to catch the attention of Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, win the starting job at North Carolina State, convince Bill Belichick to select him in the third round of the 2016 draft and become a full-time starter in his second NFL season?
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound strong-armed Florida native performed admirably in place of Luck, who missed all of 2017 following surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Brissett learned the playbook on the fly after being acquired in a cutdown weekend trade with New England, replaced Scott Tolzien as the starter in Week 2 and kept the job for the rest of the season.
His overall numbers — 276 of 469 with 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions— were solid considering he was sacked a league-high 52 times and he helped put the Colts in position to win several games.
But the Colts blew seven second-half leads, finished 4-12 and missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Now, after backing up Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie and being pressed into service last season, Brissett finds himself holding the No. 2 spot on the depth chart as Luck returns.
Through three games, Brissett’s quarterback rating is actually better than Luck’s. Brissett is 27 of 44 with 327 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a rating of 84.2. Luck has a rating of 78.1 with one TD pass and one interception.
Brissett is expected to play at least a half against Cincinnati and sounds more confident and comfortable now that he’s had a whole offseason to learn his third offense. After Thursday, though, his playing time will be determined largely by Luck’s health.
“It’s a totally different feeling, it feels good to be familiar with what you’re going into the season with,” Brissett said before turning his attention to this week’s game.
“It’s another opportunity to play in the NFL and it’s a treat every time you step out on the field. I’m going to go out there and try to win a football game.”
At least Brissett can focus on fine-tuning his game.
Most of the other players suiting up Thursday, including Phillip Walker, are vying for one of the 53 spots on Indy’s roster — or at least are trying to impress enough scouts to get a shot with another team.
Walker certainly will get his chances as Indy’s only other healthy quarterback with Brad Kaaya on injured reserve. Walker is expected to take the remaining snaps once Brissett departs.
“You just have to take the mindset that nothing is going to keep me from my dream, that I believe that what I put on tape and what I put on the field is good enough for this team, for the team that I am playing for at the time and if it’s not then I am going to take it somewhere else,” Colts coach Frank Reich said, referring to his own mindset when he was as an NFL quarterback.
Two other teams reportedly saw enough from Brissett last season to make trade inquiries.
But with Brissett still on his rookie deal this season and next, Luck dealing with a minor foot injury and questions about whether Luck’s shoulder will make it through a 16-game season, the Colts are content to keep Brissett so he can continue developing.
And as the final preseason game approaches, Brissett intends to take full advantage of the remaining opportunities.
“It grows on you and it’s been fun to learn and just get better,” Brissett said when asked about the Colts’ new offense. “It’s football.”
Notes: The Colts have signed linebacker Brandon Chubb and waived running back Tion Green.