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Ability to improvise is key to Teddy Bridgewater’s return

Aug 12, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) warms up prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Within the next week, the Minnesota Vikings will decide whether to lift quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the Physically Unable to Perform list. If/when they do, then the countdown officially begins to Bridgewater returning under center.

Until he plays in real, live games, the Vikings won’t really know how close he will be to the 2015 version.

“When he’s out there practicing and you see him dropping back or you see him throw a pass on the move or you see him scramble,” GM Rick Spielman said on Wednesday. “We’re not having live scrimmages out there.”

In determining if/when he will start this season, Spielman said that the coaching staff and doctors are evaluating whether Bridgewater can play again the same way they would evaluate any other starting quarterback.

One of the biggest keys will be whether Bridgewater can use his legs to improvise.

The former Louisville star, who led the Vikings to a 11-5 record in 2015, is not a “running quarterback.” He has averaged 13.1 rushing yards per game over his 29 starts. But at his best, Bridgewater was mobile enough to create time and space. Among his best skills was the ability to extend a play when the pocket broke down. He could keep his eyes downfield while scrambling and find an open receiver.

The example below came against in a 20-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The offensive line gets beat on a stunt and pressure comes inside the right tackle. Bridgewater responds by escaping to his right. If you watch carefully, Bridgewater directs tight end Kyle Rudolph to slide toward the middle of the field, creating a throwing lane and open running space. Bridgewater did this on a sprint to his right, then threw short back across his body.

It’s worth noting that the Vikings’ offensive line will be leaps and bounds better than the 2015 version, which featured TJ Clemmings and Matt Kalil as the starting tackles. He will also have an offense that is more catered to getting the ball out quickly, rather than taking deep drops.

Still, for Bridgewater to be his most valuable, he has to be able to create something from nothing. On the play below, the deep receiver to his left Adam Thielen appears to be his first read, but the pressure arrives before Thielen can complete his route. Bridgewater anticipates Vic Beasley getting around the edge, then slides behind Kalil, who is getting beat inside and accelerates toward the line of scrimmage.

Bridgewater knows he will be caught from behind if he tries to make a full pass, so he flips the ball shovel style to Rudolph coming across the middle.

Neither of these plays were game-changing bombs, but they allowed the Vikings to keep drives moving. Bridgewater’s personal stats may not have won anyone fantasy championships, but that’s largely because the Vikings threw the fewest number of passes in the NFL with Adrian Peterson as the centerpiece of their offense.

And overall, the Vikings’ red zone struggles (which were Peterson related) caused the offense to appear less competent than it was. the Vikings ranked seventh in the NFL in the percentage of drives with points scored. Part of the reason for that: On third downs Bridgewater averaged 7.9 yards per attempt

The Vikings are in a difficult spot with Bridgewater’s return because they are fighting for a division title while also hoping to find out whether he can be their franchise quarterback going forward. In practice, there is no real way to know whether Bridgewater can still accelerate, cut, shuffle etc. to create time to find throws when the pocket collapses. The only way to find out is to put him in game situations, but it might take time before he trusts the knee enough to do those things.

One thing is clear: If Bridgewater can get back to the 2015 version, he will add an element to the Vikings’ offense that hasn’t been there since he got hurt last year.

  • Justin Fuchs

    He can’t be any worse than a injured Bradford.

    • steven

      yea if hes ready enough let him play alil put kenuum back in if you need to the defense is good enough to help out a lil

  • Gordon Guffey

    This is the biggest BS that has been posted and reprinted out there involving Teddy ~

    {{{{ The former Louisville star, who led the Vikings to a 11-5 record in 2015 }}}}

    What lead the Vikings to 11~5 was a dang good defense and a 1500 yard RB ~

    If Case somehow finished the season as the starter and he keep playing as well as he has he could easily top Teddy’s numbers from 2015 ~

    Nor do I want to see a headline like this for Teddy once again by rushing him back on the field too soon ~
    Texans’ Deshaun Watson suffered torn ACL at practice today
    Posted by Michael David Smith on November 2, 2017, 4:56 PM EDT
    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/11/02/report-texans-fear-deshaun-watson-suffered-torn-acl-at-practice-today/

    Now I not going to set here and say Case can or can not keep it up over the next 8 games ~ I dont know that nor does anyone else and those who clam to are using the best guess or in the case of some their hopes their player somehow makes it back ~ I one of the last ~ I hope the best QB on the roster can somehow make it back healthy and stay they way ~ That would be Bradford ~ I’m not getting my hopes up on that one ~

    Spielman and Zimmer have both made it clear that Teddy isn’t going to be handed the job just because he was the starter in 2015 ~ So those hoping he will start vs the Redskins can IMHO keep on wishing ~ I’m also the same guy who has said over and over if Teddy somehow gets on the field and plays lights out I will gladly eat my share of crow ~

    However I like the odd that a healthy Bradford would beat out Teddy or Case ~ I dont like the odds that Bradford will be healthy again this year and I also believe Sam should be let go after the 2017 season ~ I also like my odds that Case can and will hold of Teddy keeping him safely on the PUP and on to IR so they have him for 2018 on his rookie contract with the 5th year option still intact for 2019 ~ I do hope they can find a way to keep Case and let him and Teddy fight it out for the starting job in 2018 while hoping a good rookie QB will fall to them in the 2018 draft ~ The Vikings need a healthy set of knees at QB ~

  • Chuck Parsels

    I have been reading comments since TB started in the league and need to post. If all you look at is numbers then TB looks very pedestrian. However, I have watched just about every Vikings game for the last 25 plus years and there is so much more to Bridgewater. He is calm, composed, able to make plays with his legs by either buying time or escaping for a few yards. The last time he played he was in an antiquated offense that was predictable, with an awful offense line and sub par wide receivers. Now the Vikings have a quick offense that mixing it up, gets the out quickly and in the hands of their playmakers. Also, the offense line is so much better. If TB is truly healthy this offense is perfect for him and although Keenum has done a nice job TB will be a solid step up and will make this offense even better.

    • Kyle

      People have no idea how to look past numbers. I can understand that to a point, but look at the offensive lines Teddy had to deal with as a starter compared to the group we have now. Teddy had to constantly improvise and create plays or escape pressure on almost every play, with the ability to stand in the pocket longer than .9 seconds Bridgewater can probably be VERY effective.

      • Gordon Guffey

        The OL helped AP gain almost 1500 yard so they weren’t too bad ~

        And Case has done a fine job of rolling out and running for first downs ~ One only has to look at the pass to McKinnon vs the Brows where Case ran all the way to the LOS and then toasted the ball to McKinnon for a nice gain ~ He has done this many times ~

        Plus Case is the only QB who isn’t coming back from some kind of injury ~ That kind of scary when you think about it ~ There is a lot of pulling and twisting when running QB’s go to the ground these days also ~ Scary Scary stuff when you look at the last 8 games against some good teams ~

        Who ever the QB is I do believe Shurmur offense will get the most of them ~ Hopefully the 2018 draft will have a good QB fall to the Vikings to set and learn ~

        • steven

          teddy isnt a run first QB tho he just had to do it because the oline was garbage

    • Daxquartermain

      All QBs in the NFL have intangibles that are not reflected in the stats. 2016 was to be the year to see if TB could take the next sep from mediocre game manager to QOF. IMO they should not start play him at all this year(unless Case goes south) and give him adequate allowing him to work himself even into the system. The playoff game against Seattle netted zero TDs. Teddy was part of the problem and certainly not the solution? Go Case!

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      • steven

        and what did wilson do

  • Topgunn

    Good points Chuck. At this point, I’m a skeptic that Teddy will return and be 2015 version or better. But I’m hopeful. I still think the best short term and long term answer at QB for the Vikes would be to sign Kirk Cousins, but I’m willing to see what Teddy can do. Case Keenam has been a solid backup, but he’s not Earl Morral.

  • Matthew Rowe

    I never thought he was a good fit in a Norv Turner offense, but the family Turner was supposedly very high on him coming out in 2014. A mobile mid and short range QB fits best in a WC scheme, where Norv needed a Carson Palmer type. I think that was Norv’s undoing here; he tried to shove a square peg in a round hole. At least now the scheme is tailored to who’s on the field, rather than trying to do the opposite.
    Teddy could do well in this scheme, no doubt but he has to be fully healthy.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Teddy want be on the field for sometime ~ While he has been in the meeting he has only been on the practice field in a totally new offense for 2 week now ~ He will still need to get his timing down with WRTERB to go along with the new route depths and the drops ~ Not saying he cant do it but its not going to easy in the course of 3 or 4 weeks ~ Now if he was still in Norv offense he played in for two years different story ~

    I for one dont see Teddy being a improvement over Case ~ If Case was to finish the season as the starter and DIDN’T improve he could match what Teddy did in 2015 in 14 games if you just doubled what Case as now ~ Case runs the ball just as well as Teddy to bye time and looks every bit as good as Teddy running for 1st downs ~ Plus Spielman and Zimmer have both said they hope to have Bradford playing ((( their words not mine ))) at some point this season ~ It will be fun to see who is the QB after the bye as no fans or reporters are allowed to see anything beyond the first 10 mins of practice ~

    That being said if Teddy somehow makes it back onto the field then the offensive staff Spielman and Zimmer put together this offseason to go with Shurmur and Sparano and any leftovers from 2016 that I’m missing have paid off to this point and I believe they will find the best way to get the most out of whoever the QB is ~This is as huge as any offensive talent added in 2017 ~ The game has past Norv by ~ And Shurmur believes a 5 yard pass is ever bit as equal to a 5 yard run ~ And if you watch Case run this offense he takes as much time off the clock as he can per Zimmer and Shurmur ~ Doesn’t matter if its a pass or a run the offense is still eating up the clock ~ I really like that they still take their deep shots ~ Well deep for Case or Teddy and still be able to hit their target ~ They might not be able to throw it 80 yards into the wind but they can and have slung it 50 yards down field for TD ~ Most NFL TD’s passes don’t average over 30 yards anyway so any of the QB’s on the roster will have no trouble with that ~ Not sure if I saw that stat here or on vikings.com in the last couple of weeks ~ ???

    • Matthew Rowe

      I think outside of AP, the talent level on offense was much lesser in 2015. One could even argue the game passed AP by as well because the best RBs also factor into the passing game, where AP was essentially useless.
      Stats don’t lie, but 2017 is a more QB friendly offense. If we do see Teddy, he’ll be better than in 2015 if he’s healthy.

      • Gordon Guffey

        AP also caused DC to put 8 and 9 men in the box to stop AP ~ That cuts down on any coverage they could use ~

        I do agree that this offense is better because of the OC and the talent is up for sure over the 2015 group ~

        However it was Teddy’s second year in Norv offense when some felt he played like a pro bowler ~ This is Case’s and now Teddy’s first year in Shurmur offense ~ Both Zimmer and Spielman both have said they hope Bradford returns to play sometime this season ~ I dont see him making it back but it says a lot about who they feel is the best QB ~ I’m not sold on any of the QB’s on the roster ~ However I dont seen taking the chance of upsetting the offense for a QB change unless Teddy is playing lights out in full practices ~ But hey what do I know ~ LOL ~ JMHO and it doesn’t mean the Vikings agree with my thoughts ~

    • steven

      actully he has been off to the side runnign the plays on his own for over a month now

      • Gordon Guffey

        Not the same thing as a full practice ~ But it is better than nothing ~ He did get a lot of film work in also ~ But timing is everything with his WRTERB ~

        • steven

          well yea of course but adam has been staying past practices and practicing more with teddy

          • Gordon Guffey

            First I have heard of this ~ But it doesn’t mean I haven’t missed it ~ LOL ~ Hey like I said many many times If he makes it back on the field I hope he plays lights out ~ However the Teddy I and many saw in 2014 and 2015 looked no better than Case and many times not as good ~ However I have also said that I believe Shurmur offense will bring out the best of any of the QB’s on the roster ~ I also dont believe the Vikings will pull Case as long as he is playing well ~

          • steven

            i actully think they will by the lions game

          • Gordon Guffey

            If they do I can only hope it goes well ~ The last thing I want to see is a losing streak blown because of the amount of rust Teddy has to knock off ~

  • Gordon Guffey

    Vikings | Rodney Adams back with Vikings

    Wed, 01 Nov 2017 12:20:51 -0700

    Free-agent WR Rodney Adams (Vikings) was re-signed to the practice squad Wednesday, Nov. 1.

    Source: Vikings.com

  • styx rogan

    We got too lame thorooughbreads…Badford n Teddy!

  • Corn Bread

    Teddy Bridgewater is the Vikings franchise QB…not Keenum. Keenum has no upside, what you see is what he is…less than mediocre. I’ve yet to see Keenum hit a receiver in stride outside of 10 yards, and too many times, the receiver has to make an outstanding play just to catch his passes (which are far more inaccurate than Teddy’s). There’s NO velocity on most of Keenum’s passes, and when there is they’re highly inaccurate, and he has to put everything he has into them (which isn’t much). He stares down the rush if it’s more than four guys coming, and cannot seem to find the open guy many times. He only excels against poor, or hurt defenses, that’s the rub with Keenum. The Texans and Rams let him walk (even as a back-up) for good reason. We are looking at one and done IF we get to the playoffs with Keenum under center, and that’s a BIG IF.
    Teddy on the other hand, has all the upside you want to see with a QB (save the knee issue). He’s not going to put 60 yard passes on a rope, but he can hit a receiver in stride up to 40-50 yards (witnessed this many times), and his passes have plenty of velocity at any distance. He’s always had excellent poise in the pocket, never overreacts. If Teddy is truly healthy he needs to be the starter against Washington. If the knee doesn’t hold up or he struggles to regain his form over two games, we always can go back to watching Keenum flail around, and hoping we can kick enough field goals, and our defense can keep us in it. I’ve posted these hypothetical headlines before I’ll do it again:
    Case Keenum Leads Vikings to First Superbowl Victory – That headline will NEVER be written
    Teddy Bridgewater Leads Vikings to First Superbowl Victory – I’m not holding my breath, but it is more believable than the other headline.

  • Troy Ricklefs

    I don’t think there is any question that if Teddy is able to play at the level he did before the injury, then he’s our starter and we are a real superbowl contender. But we, fans who don’t see him in practice, can only guess at his on the field performance level right now.

    If keenum has all his weapons, he is also good enough to get us deep into the playoffs, too so we’re sitting in a good spot.





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