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When Teddy Bridgewater returns, it will be to a much better offense

Aug 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) participates in pre game warmups against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Teddy Bridgewater hit the field, he had a highly questionable offensive line, antiquated offense, past-his-prime running back and a shaky wide receiver situation. If/when Bridgewater returns this season, things will look quite a bit better around him.

First an important note: The date of a possible return for Bridgewater is still unknown. November 8 is the last day the Vikings can lift him off the Physically Unable to Perform list and add their quarterback to the active roster. It appears to be a foregone conclusion that they will take him off the PUP – then doctors and coaches will have to decide when he’s ready for real action.

Assuming he does start at some point this season, it will be behind a completely rebuilt offensive line. Compare:

2015:

LT – Matt Kalil – LG – Brandon Fusco – C – Joe Berger – RG – Mike Harris – RT – TJ Clemmings

2017:

LT – Riley Reiff – LG – Nick Easton – C – Pat Elflein  – RG – Joe Berger – RT – Mike Remmers

In 2015, Bridgewater was sacked 44 times. So far this season, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford have been sacked a total of 10 times and four of those came when Bradford couldn’t move well in the first half against the Chicago Bears. Football Outsiders‘ Adjusted Sack Rate ranks the Vikings’ O-line fourth in the NFL. In 2015, they were 29th.

Because the offensive line was so poor, the Vikings were forced to use two tight ends often to give help to their struggling tackles. Rhett Ellison played 46% of snaps and Kyle Rudolph was only targeted 73 times (compared to 132 last season and 47 already this year).

The Vikings’ backfield is more suited to protect Bridgewater and offer him checkdown and screen options. Latavius Murray has been one of the league’s better pass blockers during his career and McKinnon has raised his play in that arena, ranking 16th of 45 running backs in blocking by PFF metrics.

Peterson was fairly successful when catching the ball from Bridgewater, grabbing 30 passes on 36 attempts for 7.4 yards per attempt. But he wasn’t as versatile of a weapon. The Vikings couldn’t scheme to throw him screens very often. McKinnon has 28 catches in eight games and has gained 7.3 yards per reception.

While All Day led the NFL in rushing in ’15, he did so because he got the ball, well, All Day. Football Outsiders ranked him 25th in the league in Success Rate, which is defined this way by FO: “This number represents the player’s consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays.” McKinnon is currently 22nd in Success Rate.

The Vikings’ situation at wide receiver is massively different because of the steps forward that Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have taken. This year, PFF ranks both receivers tied for sixth best in the NFL. Thielen is second in the NFL in receiving yards and Diggs is 11th in yards per game (missed two games with a groin injury). Both have become versatile all-around weapons who can get open and win battles on deep passes or line up in the shot and run underneath. Pat Shurmur has used both to their capabilities, rather than running them almost exclusively on deep routes as Norv Turner did.

Of course, Thielen hadn’t yet become the receiver he is now. An unhappy Mike Wallace was in the mix at the time.

Shurmur’s offense is also a much better fit for Bridgewater – especially as he tries to figure out what he can and can’t do with his surgically repaired knee.

In 2015, Turner asked Bridgewater to take deep drops, often turning his back to the play on play-action. The Vikings led the NFL on plays that included play-action in 2015 and were the 22nd most successful in yards per attempt. They now rank ninth and average the second most yards per attempt on those throws. That isn’t because Case Keenum is throwing a better ball or is more sneaky with his fake handoffs. It’s caused by a West Coast scheme, better protection and better personnel.

Shurmur’s scheme will be the biggest adjustment for Bridgewater, who has been present in quarterback and offensive meetings for the entire offseason.

Again, there is still much to be determined about Bridgewater’s possible return. There’s no set date or time and it’s impossible to simulate real game action during practice, so it’s hard to say how he will respond.

But if/when he does return, Bridgewater will be set up to success as he steps onto a much better team top-to-bottom than the Vikings had the last time he was under center.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Mr. Coller we will see if and when Teddy returns ~ Hopefully he will be far better than he was in 2014 and 2015 ~
    I do believe that Shurmur offense is a far better fit for any of the QB on the roster so there is hope for Teddy if he is ready ~ The game had pass Norv by or he lost his mind getting full control over the offense ~ He sucked at picking OL for his offense and he sucked using them ~ Same goes for his push on WR’s and TE’s ~ In fact there wasn’t much that Norv got right ~ Norv ran half the team and its the only reason he came to the Vikings ~ Yeah I’m a Norv hater so I will stop here ~

  • brian199511

    Bridgewater is going to have to play at a higher level than he did before the injury to help the Vikings. I frankly don’t see how that is going to happen. We don’t use popularity to pick players we use ability. I like the guy too but Sloter might be a better choice if he plays anywhere near as well as he did in the preseason.

    • Matthew Rowe

      A guy who’s never taken an NFL snap is a better option? How has Brett Hundley looked so far? Preseason super stardom means jack squat.

      • brian199511

        Hi knees are healthy and he has played very well to date. You gotta start somewhere and perhaps the best judge of QB talent in the world, John Elway, thinks the guy is good and wanted to keep him. Case closed.

        • Matthew Rowe

          How’s Trevor Seimian doing bud?

    • Rod Morgan

      wow… enlightening to see how dim people are…

      • hexor

        Was thinking the same about you!

      • Mike Kano

        I hate to break the news to you Rod, but it is pretty obvious that you are a simpleton. That is probably why you like Bridgewater so much. He is not very bright either.

      • brian199511

        Bite you moron.

      • justjoseph

        Every post of yours was a personal attack.
        You might want to think about that.

    • Charlie Novak

      Really Brian? Really? A couple preseason games for a different team and he might be better…. Really? Cmon …your smarter than that

      • brian199511

        He is healthy, that is a big difference. Bridgewater’s knee is a complete unknown.

  • Kallister Smith

    Teddy is a great guy and he certainly shows a lot of potential. I think most of us are praying for a complete recovery and a bright future for the guy. However, just to share some perspective let me share with you this. Seven years ago I dislocated my left knee in horrible freak accident. MCL, ACL, both cruciform ligaments and a 90% loss of the meniscus.
    Everyone was afraid to move me until an ambulance got there, roughly a half hour. I almost lost my left leg from the knee down. I had exceptional surgeons, a year of wound care, a plate installed below the knee. Today I walk with a cane, can’t negotiate uneven terrain and take probably three or four falls a year. Granted, I am much older than Teddy and not the athlete that he is, nor did I have the determination that he has shown. Having been through this I am inclined to call it a wrap on Teddy’s career but I am hoping that I am wrong. We want him to go on to the great future that he had before him. Frankly though, I am not sure all of us hoping that it happens can make it happen. I want to be absolutely wrong.
    My outside hope for him is that the Vikings sign him to a deal that will set him up for a good future and then not push him to play too much, if at all, this year. I think coaching is in his future or broadcasting, that is IF he can never remain on the field. My experience says that a rebuilt knee after such a serious dislocation is not going to be able to hold up to very many hits from the eager, professional defenses that he will be facing. It’s a sad thing, we love the guy, and like I said, I so hope that he proves to be the exception. We wish him the best and want him around, that much is clear.

    • chriswcarter10

      With the movement that Teddy has been able to make since the off season, parallels can’t be drawn to your incident.. You would have been better served typing “It can be rough recovering from these injuries.”

      • Matthew Rowe

        Hard to draw parallels to a rich pro athlete in his early 20s with your situation. Just sayin…

        • Kallister Smith

          You’re right, of course. I’d sure like it if he can get a big contract and come back for years to come.

      • Kallister Smith

        “It can be rough recovering from these injuries.” Agreed. Again, I sure wish him the very best.

        • Matthew Rowe

          If he doesn’t, he’s still young, rich, educated, and smart. He’ll be fine no matter what happens.

    • Wilbur One

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the readers. While you and Teddy are two different people, your injury report brings some needed reality to the Teddy story. We’ll have to wait til next Wed for the next chapter. Like you, I’m not optimistic about Teddy, but I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise. At best, he’s an immobile QB right now, and he won’t last long on the field playing like a pillar of salt. The Vikings desperately need another experienced QB because the rookie Sloter is all that stands between an injury to Keenum and a string of losses. What we need the most right now is to see Bradford back on the field ASAP. Go Vikes!!!

      • Pete

        We hear nothing from Bradford, I’m thinking he’s done.

    • Rod Morgan

      thanks for the incite… but….predicting what one injury is like based one incident of another injury because of its designated “type” is not possible or wise. you and I know very little about Bridgewaters actual injury.. you and he are different people… with different resources… if an average person tears an ACL.. it;s likely they never run or play sports again… but in the NFL it’s become almost automatic that players come back in less than a year. I honestly find your comparison silly… I wish you the best but don’t think for even one second that your experience sheds any light on Bridgewater’s injury whatsoever.

      • Kallister Smith

        Frankly, I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I sure would like to see him succeed. We all would.

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    • thegatorviking

      “I am much older than Teddy and not the athlete that he is, nor did I have the determination that he has shown.” – I stopped reading right there LOL

      • Jeeves

        Never allow yourself access to information that might change your mind or give you a broader base of knowledge.

    • In 1988 my left knee blew out in a similar football injury when I was stationed overseas. Not quite the extent of yours, but ACL, LCL, and meniscus. I was 19. Mis-diagnosed because I severely guarded against movement during the evaluation, they called it a sprain and sent me on my way with Motrin, brace, and crutches. After a couple years of it shifting laterally whenever I placed too much stress on it during sports (swelling, brace, crutches, motrin again) I finally had an MRI that confirmed the damage. ACL plasty, then one year of rehab, and I was back to sports (amateur/recreational mind you, but cutting sports none-the-less). Over the years I’ve been a downhill ski instructor, and today continue to play volleyball, softball, and I water-ski. My graft has stretched out, I’m still playing sports (though gingerly) well after the expiration date of my repair, with an occasional twinge.
      2 different scenarios, 2 different people, 2 different outcomes. But, the amazing advances in medicine are creating more successful outcomes. I work in rehab now, have extensive experience in getting people back in shape after their surgeries. Teddy will play again, likely at the same level as before. Only time will tell if he’s gun-shy – I sure am.

      • cka2nd

        But even being gun-shy can be overcome. Kurt Warner is a perfect example. He looked shell-shocked when he was playing for the Giants, utterly petrified of taking a sack, and then he bounced all the way back and led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.

        • Not very versed in Kurt Warner’s history. Was he shell-shocked because of being sacked a lot, or because he had a devastating injury to protect? Look at how Bradford played against Chicago – after a couple tweaks to the knee he was so fearful he collapsed petrified when his own lineman barely brushed him.

          • cka2nd

            If memory serves, it was from being sacked a lot, but I checked his Wikipedia and Pro Football Reference pages to refresh my memory. The injuries that ended his Rams career were to his fingers and throwing hand, but he did take six sacks – by the Giants! – in his only start of the 2003 season. With the Giants in 2004, he was sacked 39 times in nine games, which, over the course of the season, would have been 69 sacks, bad enough to be in the top five or ten most sacks given up in a season ever. And where Warner was 33 in 2004, the guys taking all or most of the sacks for the 1986 Eagles (Randall Cunningham, 72 of 104), ’97 Cardinals (Jake Plummer, 52 of 78) and 2002 Texans (David Carr, 76 of 76) were all 23. Carr, by the way, was sacked 249 times in his first five seasons. Ugh!

  • WIVIK

    One other factor that should affect Teddy’s numbers is USBank Stadium. As is the case with most quarterbacks, his passing numbers were lower when temperatures were in the teens and below. In 2015, the team played 5 games outdoors at TCF or Lambeau after December 1st.

  • Drediock

    Ok Coller. I’ll give ya this one.

  • hexor

    You think the Viking are going to replace CASE KEENUM #6 overall QBR QB in entire NFL for Teddy no knees? Your a special kind of stupid!

    • Rod Morgan

      anyone who think Keenum is a top ten QB is truly a special kind of stupid.

      • Drew Lindeman

        Keemun is playing well for a backup, obviously any ranking is based on having a good offense around him. Calling people stupid when you’re only going literally skin deep on it shows how shallow you are.

        • Drew Lindeman

          Meant that for hexor

    • Dave Rukavina

      Anyone who doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re shouldn’t be calling other people stupid. As a matter of fact, I think name-calling really inhibits intelligent discussion of anything. Make your points using logic and facts. Then we can argue those points on their merits using candor and maybe a little humor.

      • Jeeves

        Stop making sense.

    • Let’s see here – “…the Viking….” needs an S, “….in entire NFL” needs the article “the” before entire, and “Your….” should be “You’re….” Takes stupid to know stupid.

    • Michael Edwards

      6th round pick, dummy

    • Andrew Gorny

      Speaking of stupid. Learn the difference between your and you’re.

  • Carl Brodin

    Sam is done. Case will probably sign else where next season. Teddy starts next year with Slower as his back up. The Vikings will draft a QB of the future as insurance.

  • MC

    The guy can’t put the ball on target, he looks like ponder. Seriously who are you watching? This defense and run game is winning games

  • styx rogan

    Casey Keenum is lookin good… but Too Gloves is Zim’s boi

  • Foreman 44

    Teddy B. – Heart, Guts & Smarts. Players can’t fool the locker room and that is why they love Teddy. Knee is a huge concern because mobility in the pocket and to mobility to get out of the pocket and extend plays was Teddy’s biggest strength. We will know about his mobility once they let him practice with out contact but with fast moving bodies competing in close proximity.. Finally, agree this offense is a great fit for Teddy with the short & intermediate passes requiring anticipation and touch Teddy has always excelled at.. The one thing about his fit that is a wait and see for Shurmer is that 2014 & 2015 Teddy could not accurately throw deep when his WRs got open because corners were beat deep when they sat on routes they thought were breaking at 8 – 15 yards. from a past performance lens Teddy is probably the worst deep thrower on the current roster. QBs don’t live on deep balls but when DBs don’t fear deep passes – Defenses can suffocate a short pass timing based west coast offense. Your offense generates some 1st downs but not enough Touch Downs. For me, if Teddy can answer the bell with the elite movement he has already shown and just as important develop into an at least average deep ball thrower… Vikes are a Super Bowl contender. Every Vikes Fan should be rooting for that.

    • Foreman 44

      Case Keenum has performed great. He is an elite backup QB. His solid success and Sams trancendent performance on Monday night show that this team is QB friendly. Sam can’t stay healthy -Case is awesome insurance.

      • J.R.

        I agree, Keenum is a premium backup QB.

        He’s not going to lead you through the playoffs when the pressure is on.

  • Famfirst

    Sounds like Sam is out…like out out. Which I am fine with because we need guys who can play…just not one mention of him here.

  • J.R.

    People think Teddy can’t come back successful. Adrian Peterson tore his ACL, grade 3 in late 2011 and came back the next year to set records and win offensive MVP in 2012.

    I won’t compare Teddy to AP’s talent, because AP is one of the greatest in his prime but Teddy has some of the best medical care in the world. He should come back just fine.

    Out of Teddy, Bradford, Keenum, Sloter – Teddy has the highest ceiling for production.

  • Robert

    the funny thing is the argument you are using to say Teddy will be better bolsters the argument that Keenum is a top 10 QB. Keenum played behind the worst offensive line in the league with no receivers and Jeff Fishers dinosaur offense last year. When he was at the Texans it was just as bad an offensive line and they lost their two starting running backs in Keenums first week. Keenum still managed to be the number 1 passer in the league in plays over 20 yards that season. You people don’t know or forget that Keenum is the Number 1 passer in DIV 1 college football history, and don;t tell me they didnt play anybody, go watch the bowl game where Penn States #1 defense in the BIg 10 that year had Keenum put 227 on them in the first quarter and over 500 for the game……I heard they are having to change Teddys drop back method to reduce pressure on his knee….doesnt sound very mobile to me…..Keenums mobility is one of the reasons the offensive line is looking so good….this article is just ridiculous….no coach is stupid enough to take out a top 6 ranked QB that is winning and put in a player that hasnt even played in the new offense

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    • Tom

      Go watch Kennum’s ball placement this year. Go back and watch Teddy’s ball placement. If Teddy as accurate has he was previously this offence will be much better than it is today.

  • wdnemesis

    There we go guys certain fans can’t live with the fact that Teddy can be a great QB. His supporting cast was not terrible as a whole. I do believe that Keenums success as a QB that looked downright aweful before this year. I give Keenum credit he has averaged 1 interception a game. He has been able to take advantage of the talent around him even if he misses a easy TD from time to time. Keenum lacks consistency at a high level especially against good teams.

  • RobSkolVikes

    I have to agree with Rod Morgan. Keenum is having some success because of the talent and scheme around him. Granted, he does have great footwork, leadership and injects energy into the players around him, but he is limited in the end. I would like to see what Teddy can do if he is healthy enough to go.

  • Carl A Brodin

    Here’s a reality check for you Jeeves Sam is out for the year and won’t be back with the Vikings. His knee is shot. He is trying different treatments and nothing seems to be getting him back on the field. I wish Sam all the best but I think his done with football.

    • Jeeves

      We don’t know that Carl. We don’t know if Teddy will make it back. We don’t know how Case is going to play the rest of the season.
      It’s not a reality check, Carl; it’s a speculation check.

      • Wilbur One

        Good point!

    • Jeeves

      OK Carl, NOW its reality.

      • Wilbur One

        Still holding my breath, but at least I’m not blowing bubbles. Oops!

  • David Nathaniel

    I think the biggest test will come when Bridgewater takes his first big hit. I want to see how he handles the pressure. I mean, I couldn’t blame the guy if he was a little gun shy and throws away a lot of balls to avoid getting hit, but obviously we can’t have guys that can’t stand in the pocket and deliver a pass under duress (ahem… Christian Ponder… ahem… Tavaris Jackson). When he takes that first big hit we will have a small glimpse into how durable his knee will be, at least for the short-term.

    Honestly I think that if he’s ready to go, he should get the start against Washington (obviously that’s a HUGE if). I wouldn’t want to put him in against the Rams D and putting him in for the Thanksgiving game at Detroit would be a mistake I think. After that we are away against the Falcons and Panthers… no way should those hostile environments be the guys first go…. So if you don’t get him in next week, do you wait until week 15 when we are back home against the Bengals? I personally would like to see Teddy play more than 3 games if we are going to make a playoff run.

    Honestly, I hope the kid comes back strong and gets stronger. It was obviously a hell of an injury and he is lucky to have two legs to stand on (thanks to Eric Sugarman). The team has rallied around him and consider him a leader. He chose to do his rehab in MN to be with the team (remember Daunte Culpepper choosing to do his rehab in FL and how it caused a riff with the team?) and he has been at every team meeting. He has only a theoretical working knowledge of Pat Shurmur’s offense, which is disconcerting, but Shurmur has proven to be very adept at playing to maximize the strengths of his players (except Treadwell. Maybe there is a strength deficiency).

    I think if the kid can play and has not been traumatized by his injury he gives us a better shot than Case Keenum to go deep in the playoffs. I have enjoyed watching Keenum play and I have confidence in what he does, but we have seen his ceiling and it seems unlikely that he can consistently play at or near it. He throws too many bad balls and has been bailed out by receivers making acrobatic catches far too often (though I don’t mind the highlight reel). His ability to extend plays and move the pocket has been the best thing about him and I contribute the low sack count to that more than the above average line play. He is a stellar backup and I value him on the team. I hope we can keep him as a backup going forward, but the truth is that he’s better than at least 5-7 starting QB’s at this moment and will get a paycheck at the end of the year. Good on him!

    Anyway, tl;dr… Sam Bradford might have thrown his last NFL football. I feel bad for the kid, bc I thought there was a chance that he was going to be the guy for the next 6-8 years, but no matter what happens now he will have a big yellow caution sign chained to him for the rest of his career (if he has a rest of a career). I hope that Bridgewater can be the guy, otherwise I fear we shall have an anxious season keeping our fingers crossed that Keenum doesn’t let us down (though I think this D we have is good enough to take us to the Superbowl even with Keenum under center) and then it’s back to the drawing board next year (Kirk Cousins?).

    • RJ

      Excellent points and seems to be the most realistic. Teddy is an amazing person and I really hope he’s able to come back and we wrap him up.

    • Pete

      Ahem… Sam Bradford in the Chicago game

  • RJ

    HIS PURPOSE – – – WILL NOT BE DENIED

  • David Prestin

    Holy crap….this article sure got the comments rolling. Let’s just say that if all our QBs were healthy I’d prefer Bradford. Since they aren’t, I don’t think you can bench keenum until he earns it. If teddy is healthy and can play, then I don’t think this team changes much as the teams talent seems good enough for any of our 3 top QBs to win. Right now I think it is keenum’s job until he loses it. So as long as he keeps winning, no change is warranted imo.

    • cka2nd

      I’m just worried that Zimmer is going to be too quick with the hook on Keenum. If Case has a bad first half and can’t get the offense going on the first drive of the second half, I could see Zimmer plugging Bridgewater in. I’m not worried about Teddy’s grasp of Shurmer’s system, but I am worried that Bridgewater won’t have developed the muscle memory of playing in that system that a whole off-season of practice should give him.

  • beloitgopher

    Two points. Teddy can play if he’s 100%. Teddy can play if Keenum gets hurt or stinks up the place.

    Case has earned the right to take this team as far as he can!

  • Pete

    Isn’t the offense a top 10 now? I like Teddy but let’s not diss Keenum, he’s done a great job for the team.

    • cka2nd

      13th in points scored per game. We’ve really missed Diggs and the touchdowns he was scoring in the passing game.

  • Rod Morgan

    you appear to have an anger/maturity issue… seek help

  • justjoseph

    These days, we are all conditioned to modern medicine and fully expect players with torn ligaments to be back in playing form in 9 months.
    Teddy’s injury was more serious than those injuries. Wthout taking a hit, his knee just fell apart, torn everything.
    He went from “he could lose the leg” to having it surgically repaired, a very long rehab, and being able to run and throw again, but will it stand up to NFL competition? No one knows, really, but doctors will now sign off on liablity ( and they are insured heavily for malpractice) and thats really all we know.
    Bradford’s knee will continue to be painful due to bone-on-bone condition, which usually spells career end for players.
    But Case Keenum is playing well, and playing well in THIS OFFENSE, RIGHT NOW. No one is going to run out on the field and say “Oh, you cant do that, because you have been officially deemed a “backup”, and therefore you cant possibly have this success”.

    Its working. And ” If it works, don’t fix it”

  • Jon Robinson

    TB is definitely a feel good atta boy story, and realistically his odds of coming back successfully are not really that high. Stick with the Case and next man up philosophy. With all the pounding and grinding in NFL, I’m sure we’ll see TB and possibly Sluter too!

  • Jon Robinson

    Ride Case and the winning hand..TB should be an excellent backup, but being backup may not last long in this league of hard knocks. This QB problem is good, too good to be true for us!





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