Assuming Teddy Bridgewater isn’t ready to start the season as the Minnesota Vikings’ backup quarterback, it appears their depth chart will include Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and “developmental” quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Asked on Monday if the Vikings planned on keeping a third QB, head coach Mike Zimmer said:
“We’d like to,” Zimmer said. “I think you look around the league, when quarterbacks go down, then you start scrambling, finding guys on the street and things like that.”
Heinicke, who has been with the Vikings for the past two years, may be trailing Keenum in the competition for the backup job, but he had a bounce-back game against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday night, going 6-for-9, 84 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The INT came on a good pass that receiver Isaac Fruechte let bounce off his hands. His touchdown came on a 21-yard throw to tight end Bucky Hodges.
While the former Old Dominion quarterback isn’t tall at just 6-foot-1, he is a terrific athlete. At his pro day in April 2015, Heinicke ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 and 4.63 seconds. He also had an impressive 35-inch vertical and a 10-foot-3 broad jump.
His NFL Draft profile, written by Lance Zierlein, pointed to strong pocket presence and accuracy as Heinicke’s strong points. Zierlein wrote:
“Shows above-average poise. Has a feel for pocket. Climbs the pocket with bouncing, controlled footwork and creates more favorable passing lanes. Accurate passer when given time to throw and uses anticipation and timing to overcome poor arm strength. Flashes patience as a quarterback. Allows routes to develop and knows area he wants to attack. Willing to stand and deliver with impending hit coming. Has touch to float throws over underneath defenders and in front of closing safeties”
The Vikings’ appreciation for his talent was on display last offseason when Heinicke injured himself kicking a glass window and the team kept him on the roster. However, his development was likely stunted by missing camp and preseason reps. This year, Heinicke has played second and third team reps in camp and seen action in both preseason games.
“That’s for the final roster decision but I think it’s extremely important that you’re always developing quarterbacks,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “You just never know how it’s all going to play out. You just want to keep developing the quarterback position throughout the season and especially during training camp, so that if for some reason you need a guy, you have a guy ready to go. Again, the final roster decision is a couple weeks away so we’ll just have to wait and see.”