News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 14, 2012

Stanton enjoying home as Luck's backup in Indy

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s a reason why the National Football League is often referred to as the “Not For Long” league. Just ask Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Drew Stanton.

A part-time starter for most of his five seasons (2007-11) with the Detroit Lions, Stanton thought he had hit the jackpot — both figuratively and literally — when he signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the New York Jets last March.

Stanton figured he had made the right move for him and his family. After turning down more lucrative offers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, as well as a chance to remain with the Lions, he would be the primary backup to New York starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The former Michigan State signal caller would be in position to replace Sanchez if needed. But the situation changed quickly.

Within a week of joining the Jets, however, the team added Tim Tebow to the mix in a trade with the Denver Broncos. Now it appeared as if Stanton would be the odd man out. It didn’t take long for him to see the handwriting on the wall. And he wanted out just as quickly as he wanted in.

“As soon as free agency started, I got a call from the quarterback coach, [general manager Mike Tannenbaum] and [coach Rex Ryan]. They all wanted me to take a visit. I went on a visit and met everybody in the organization. I felt really comfortable about the entire situation and the way they laid it out to me. Flew home the next day and felt really good about the situation that I was going to embark on. Started looking at houses and started doing all of that stuff,” he recalled this week.

“I thought I was going there. I was told that if I signed, Mark was the starter, I was the backup and [Greg] McElroy was the third [quarterback]. I just took them on their word. And then talks started happening about Tebow coming in and doing that. Once it was became finalized and that [Tebow] was going to run Wildcat [offense] and he’s going to be doing special teams stuff.”

Stanton also knew what the fan reaction would be if Sanchez were to struggle.

“If things start going south and it turns into a popularity contest, I don’t know anybody that is going to beat Tim Tebow in a popularity contest. He dominates ESPN as it is,” he voiced. “So I talked to [the Jets] and they said ‘If we can just kind of keep this quiet, we’re going to find the best possible situation for you.

“Your agent has sent over a list of teams and Indianapolis happened to be on the top of that list. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. And I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this organization and call all these guys my teammates.”

Seven days after agreeing to a deal with New York, Stanton arrived in Indianapolis. And he couldn’t be happier about how things eventually worked out. The Colts had traded a sixth-round pick from last spring’s draft to New York in exchange for the quarterback and a seventh-round pick in the same draft.

“It was a business decision [by the Jets to trade for Tebow]. To [New York team officials] upholding what they said, they helped me find a situation that I could still pursue what I wanted to and establish myself as a backup in this league. It’s just a matter of moving on,” Stanton said.

“I got a chance to come in here and got all these reps in the spring. Now I have a quarterback room that is really a strong room where everybody kind of settled into their roles. We can go out there and prepare [rookie quarterback] Andrew [Luck] throughout the week and allow him to put his best foot forward on Sundays.”

Colts vs. Jets

The game plan

Keep up the good that the Indianapolis Colts started in the second half of the Green Bay game. Indianapolis played with an up-tempo style on offense and got their pass rush untracked defensively over the final two quarters in the win over the Packers.

The Colts figure to stay up-tempo on offense, using a no-huddle attack for approximately 80 percent of last week's game. Those numbers will most likely same about the same, although Indianapolis would also like to pick up where the team left off in the running game. The key will be pass protection against a pretty aggressive New York defensive unit.

Defensively, the Colts have five sacks in the win over Green bay, with four of those occurring in the second-half rally. Indianapolis wants to keep the pressure on this week, especially since the Jets' quarterbacking situation is tenuous at best.

Key matchups

Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Jets pass defense — Luck has been on a roll of late. He still hasn't played like a rookie, although the Jets defense is expected to throw up quite a few roadblocks this week. Indianapolis is averaging 286.3 yards per game passing. New York is allowing 199.8 yards per game. Both units are ranked sixth in the league in their respective categories.

Jets QB Mark Sanchez vs. Colts DE Cory Redding — Sanchez has been inconsistent so far this season. But he is good enough to break out of his struggles at any time. He hurt the Colts the last time these two teams met with New York posting a 17-16 win in an AFC Wildcard playoff game on Jan. 8, 2011.

Colts WR Reggie Wayne vs. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie. A classic matchup. Wayne is off to his best start of his career, catching a team-high 36 passes for 506 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 14.1 yards per reception. It's his highest yards per catch average since 2007 (14.5). Cromartie is a big, physical cornerback who has given Indianapolis fits since coming into the league. He has a team-leading two interceptions this season.

The series

67th regular-season meeting. The Colts lead series, 40-26.