I mentioned briefly the other day that missing in Norv Turner’s faith in Teddy Bridgewater in part was some glossing over of some real issues that have cropped up in training camp, though likely not major issues in the long run unless they persist. In particular, high throws in camp have made catches difficult for receivers and have cut down on yards-after-catch opportunities while marginally increasing the likelihood of tipped receptions and so on.
Those who have been following the Twitter play-by-play of Vikings camp have noticed that there are a number of throws, nearly every day, that could be characterized as “high” or “worrisome” because of ball placement. It would be easy to dismiss them as the minority of passes—after all, Norv has logged over 150 passes for each of his quarterbacks in 11-on-11 drills alone—but it has been consistent enough to be noteworthy in my mind.
There has been a worry that it may be in part due to being asked to speed up his mechanics. It’s a discussion that’s been referenced a few times, but for the most part we’re familiar with the fact that changing a quarterback’s mechanics will, at least in the short term, change how the ball comes out of their hand and therefore how it will get to the receiver.
In this case, the Vikings didn’t want Bridgewater to change any part of his motion, so much as speed up the process. When asked, Teddy said, “That’s something Coach Turner’s been stressing since before the draft when I worked out for the Vikings in Miami. He was just telling me that I need to get back from under center fast; guys are going to be in and out of their cuts fast, in and out of their breaks fast. Defenders are much faster in the National Football League. That’s been the main point for me, just playing faster, progressing faster and just getting rid of the football faster.”
It doesn’t really sound like anything is changing so much as speeding up. Nevertheless, introducing that kind of change can create some inconsistencies. It’s all a part of making sure that Teddy is set for NFL play. “Some of the periods, he is going to have to get the ball out a little bit quicker. That has kind of been, with all of the quarterbacks, right from the get-go, that is one of the big things that Norv [Turner] does,” said Mike Zimmer. “We have got to get the ball out, you have got to get back quicker, you have to get set up, you have to get the ball out. In some of the blitz periods, we have guys running by him, which is not going to happen in the game, I do not think. It is just all part of the process, really.”
It all sounds fairly normal. Quarterbacks have to adjust to the game, although there are a number of different schools of thought on what it means to adjust a quarterback’s throwing process and to what extent it really is changeable. For Zimmer, it’s about slowing the game down, not adjusting his throwing. “I noticed that he’s trying to do more even today [August 5th] in the walk-throughs getting the ball, trying to get the ball out. I was talking to Rich Gannon some yesterday about young quarterbacks, it’s trying to get the game to slow down so they anticipate kind of the things that are going on and then once the ball is snapped their anticipation, what they see, confirms what they’re anticipating to happen,” Zimmer explained in a presser describing Teddy’s new proclivity for getting the ball out faster. “It takes time with young guys, but he has so much talent and so much ability, such a good kid, works so hard that it’ll come.”
As far as what a quarterback looks like in camp, it’s always difficult to say. My eye, one that doesn’t have access to replay or coaches [sic] film, sees good things from Teddy Bridgewater aside from ball placement. He’s going to the right places with the ball, he’s identifying open receivers, he’s testing what he can and can’t do, and so on. I would argue that he’s been late on making his decisions consistently, and that might be the only other obvious issue with his camp performance so far—something explicitly being addressed with the change in his dropback.
With all that in mind, I consulted several draft analysts and quarterback specialists to see what they’re opinions on Teddy’s camp performance were. I grabbed video of 20 or so dropbacks in individual drills on August 6 (I was not allowed to tape 11-on-11s, per Vikings rules) and sent them to the analysts to grab their opinions. For some of them, I went into detail about why I was looking for their opinion, and others I simply asked to analyze the mechanics without context.
The limits of this are obvious: it’s one practice, there was no pressure, and they did not receive video that included the receptions; only the throw. There were only a few dropbacks, so it’s not the library of his work, but it still could be pretty useful in figuring out what the problem may be.
Matt Miller of the Bleacher Report is a little results-oriented in his analysis, so would have preferred to see where the ball landed on the throws. To him, the footwork and the mechanics will change in response to the throw, and did not mind what he saw as choppiness at the top of the drop because quick hits will generally incur some quick, choppy footwork (like slants, or hot reads). In our discussion, he said, “Mechanics are funny because there is this certain way to do things, but you can alter that if you still get results.”
That was echoed by Justis Mosqueda. “Everyone views perfect mechanics in a different light. [You] could have 300 dudes say something different.”
Still, when I explained my concern to Miller, he told me to watch for the follow-through and drive with Teddy’s front leg. He didn’t notice that as a particular problem in his run through.
In looking, I found there were a few passes in that set where Teddy’s weight transfer through his front leg was a little wanting. Ben Natan, a writer for the draft website With the First Pick and an analyst for Draft Mecca saw that concern with his drive on the front leg unprompted. Derrik Klassen, who has been involved in extensive quarterback charting, grading and analysis over the past summer (culminating in his own power rankings) saw some potential issues with the choppy footwork, which Miller had mentioned but largely dismissed as situational.
A different issue was brought up by both our own Darren Page as well as Ethan Hammerman, a freelance writer and draft analyst, who also has his work published at Draft Mecca. Page and Hammerman looked at Teddy’s ball carriage. Page saw “inconsistency in where he holds the ball, how low he drops it before it comes up, and what angle the arm comes through.” He did note that this was an issue in college, and that it didn’t seem to bother Teddy much then, also adding that over the course of the video (which was arranged chronologically), Teddy’s carriage and release became more consistent.
Ethan specifically did not like how low the ball was in most of the dropbacks, and brought up Chad Henne as a comparison. “Considering Teddy already isn’t huge, not sure I like the ramifications of him dropping his arm slot like he is.” Hammerman specifically asked about ball placement despite not being primed on that specific issue, which could be a little telling.
Still, the majority of evaluators agreed that most everything was fine. In the video provided, neither Ian Kenyon of the Bleacher Report nor Benjamin Allbright of 94.1 FM in Denver found any outstanding issues worth mentioning. Both of them have drilled down in regards to quarterback mechanics in the past. Those that found some fault generally agreed that most everything looked fine mechanically—he’s ahead of where people expect Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr or Blake Bortles to be at this stage and his release is still quick and they liked his footwork in general, too.
Matt Miller had concluded that speeding up mechanics in general isn’t a problem. “I don’t see an issue. Too fast mechanics isn’t a problem I’ve ran into with QBs.” Allbright referred to a “quick release” and a “smooth weight transfer.” Darren always thought Teddy’s release was quick and praised his growing consistency. “Solid” was also a phrase I heard a few times.
Should Vikings fans be worried about his high passes in camp and some of the mechanical issues pointed out by quarterback analysts? Probably not very much. These sorts of things will likely iron themselves out, especially because this was not an issue at Louisville. The specific issues—low ball carriage and leg drive—are smaller problems in the context of the whole quarterback package. His drive is mostly fine, outside of a few throws, and low ball carriage is not ideal, but hardly damning. Most of the people I talked to were confident that any issues were very temporary.
That Bridgewater seems to be learning the offense at a faster rate than expected and that he’s generally making the right decision with the ball is far more encouraging. Teddy, as far as we can tell, is well on his way to proving his investment.