It’s a question at the top of every fan’s mind — “How’s Teddy look?” That would be Teddy Bridgewater, third-year quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. He’s the emerging face of the franchise after leading the Vikings to an NFC North title last season. He’s the center of attention, a budding star expected to take “the next step” in 2016.
Every snap and throw from Bridgewater is viewed under a microscope. Release points and deep ball trajectories find their way onto the lens, where fans and analysts do their best to explain his game. Opinions vary; some see Bridgewater as an average, top-15 quarterback, while others think Bridgewater is on the cusp of greatness.
Breaking Bridgewater down is a worthwhile endeavor, regardless of opinions; he plays the most important position in the country’s most visible sport. That’s why we’re taking the question literally; and over the course of the preseason and regular season, we’ll try our best to answer it.
At halftime and at the conclusion of every game, we’ll provide in-depth stats and insights on Bridgewater and the Vikings’ offense. We’re tracking every snap and passing play to bring you exclusive, real-time analysis on Minnesota’s quarterback, starting tonight against the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Teddy Bridgewater passing: 6-of-7 for 92 yards and one touchdown
- Total plays: 14
- Passes: 8
- Runs: 6
- 11 (One tight end, running back): 4
- 12 (One running back, two tight ends): 8
- 21 (Two running backs, one tight end): 1
- 22 (Two running backs, two tight ends): 1
- McKinnon: 2
- Pruitt: 1
- Rudolph: 1
- Johnson: 1
- Thielen: 1
- Diggs: 1
The Vikings gave fans a case of deja vu on the first drive, opening with three pass plays and far too much pressure on the quarterback. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner opened the game with two tight ends — Pruitt and Rudolph — and Bridgewater under center. Bridgewater ran a boot pass to the right and was met with immediate pressure from Geno Atkins. Much as he did last season, Bridgewater extended the play and found Pruitt in the flat for a three-yard gain.
The next two plays were seven-step drops, both ending with pressure in Bridgewater’s face. On second down — a two-tight end look with Rudolph inline and Morgan as the wing — Bridgewater took the snap from under center and stood in the pocket far too long. Whether wide receivers were covered or Bridgewater didn’t see McKinnon open in the flat (after running quick out), he needed to get rid of the football. Berger, understandably, lost the battle with Atkins and Bridgewater fell victim to a sack in the middle of the pocket.
Third down, and the Vikings come out with three wide receivers — Diggs, Thielen, Johnson — and Diggs split wide to the left. Bridgewater sent Diggs in motion to the right, giving the defense a trips look and leaving Rudolph alone, inline on the left of the offensive line. At the shotgun snap, Bridgewater looks to his left and appears to target Rudolph, but is hit as he’s released and the pass falls incomplete.
Bridgewater finished the drive 1-of-2 for three yards, holding the ball too long in certain situations and succumbing to the pass rush in others (third down sack, pressure from the defensive end beat Andre Smith at right tackle). Turner clearly wanted to get Bridgewater comfortable, but the quarterback had little time to throw behind a shaky offensive line.
After a disappointing first drive, Bridgewater and the first-team offense took the field from their own four-yard line. Turner opened in tight-end heavy sets, running McKinnon from under center the first two plays (21 and 22-personnel) of the drive. On third down, Bridgewater lined up in shotgun and found McKinnon in the middle of the field for a first down. He appeared comfortable when given time and hit McKinnon underneath for a routine pitch-and-catch.
Turner opened the playbook a little following the offense’s first third-down conversion, switching personnel groupings and rotating players. He rotated between 12, 11, and 21-personnel groupings on the next three plays, keeping the defense on its toes and giving Bridgewater even more of an advantage from the pocket. Bridgewater delivered, hitting his next four throws in rhythm and within the structure of the play.
They were, as follows:
- 2nd and 14, 12-personnel: Designed swing pass, hits McKinnon in the backfield for a three-yard gain
- 3rd and 7, Shotgun, 11-personnel (3WR): Bridgewater sets up and finds Thielen on the deep post, placing the ball high and away from the trailing corner/closing safety.
- 3rd and 7, Shotgun, 11-personnel (3WR): Diggs, lined up in the slot, runs a crossing route from right-to-left. Bridgewater waits until he clears the linebackera, hitting his wide receiver high fsr a first down.
- 1st and 10, 12-personnel (2WR Right): Play-action, Bridgewater sets up in the pocket and hits a wide-open Charles Johnson in stride for a 49-yard touchdown.
Bridgewater’s night started poorly, but ended with a fantastic highlight. Reports of an improved deep ball and more “zip” in his throws hold true through two preseason drives. A lack of protection stalled the opening drive, but savvy play-calling from Turner on the second drive created play-action opportunities for Bridgewater and the offense.
Unlike last season, Bridgewater didn’t need to run around the pocket and improvise to complete passes. He stood tall in the backfield and delivered accurate, on-time footballs to his receivers. He found the most success in the intermediate area of the field, but also delivered when asked to stretch the defense. Thielen and Diggs hauled in high throws from Bridgewater, but to call them inaccurate passes would be unfair.
The touchdown to Johnson was, arguably, the best deep pass of Bridgewater’s career. He recognized the breakdown in coverage and hit Johnson in stride with an effortless flick of his wrist.
All-in-all, it was a solid night for Bridgewater despite a shaky start. There are still concerns over Bridgewater holding the football too long, but two points to remember — it’s the first “game” of the year and receivers may have been covered down the field.