Turner: Preseason to determine starting QB

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner talked about Teddy Bridgewater’s poise in the pocket and ability to learn the offense, but preseason performances will still determine the Vikings’ starter.

Teddy Bridgewater has had a strong start to his rookie training camp, impressing in both the film room and on the field. But, of course, in front of him – at least for now – is a more experienced Matt Cassel.

So how much of an advantage are Cassel’s nine years in the league compared to a rookie quarterback candidate?

“I think Coach (Mike) Zimmer has made it clear to our team that we’re going to play the best guys, the guys that have performed the best,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said on Wednesday. “As he said the other day, all of this stuff – I talk to our player all the time – all this stuff that you do in March, April, May, all this stuff you do in training camp and the preseason to get you ready to go play regular-season games and go win regular-season games, I think the preseason games will weigh heavily on coach’s decision.”

Zimmer was in Cincinnati when the Bengals started Andy Dalton as a rookie, although that decision was up to head coach Marvin Lewis. Bridgewater, however, entered the league being declared by many draft analysts as the most NFL-ready quarterback among the 2014 crop of candidates, even if he was selected third behind Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has limited how much time players can be on the field practicing in training camp, but Turner sees that as being a positive when it comes to the quarterback position learning a new offense. More time can be dedicated to film sessions and teaching the offense.

In that regard, Bridgewater has been “outstanding,” Turner said.

“For any of these guys, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been around for nine years or this is your first year. If you’re putting in a new system, new terminology, it’s a new language. We’re grinding on them; they’re grinding to learn it,” Turner said. “We’re trying to simplify some things to make some of the calls easier, like we do every year. If you work hard at it, I’ve been with a lot of different guys that have learned it. If you work hard at it, you’ll learn it and he’s working really hard at it.”

Wednesday is expected to be a pivot day for how reps are divided up among the quarterbacks. Turner said “you can’t work three for a long time” when it comes to getting a quarterback ready for the season.

“I think from a quarterback position, getting them up to speed in terms of what to do, this (new CBA), the way it is now, is outstanding for that,” Turner said. “You just don’t get quite as many team reps, so when we’re throwing routes against air, when we’re throwing balls to the backs, when we’re working with the tight ends, we’ve got to mentally create a game environment for them so you’re simulating the reps you would get if they were practicing in the morning.”

But once he gets on the field, the Vikings like what they see from Bridgewater, especially his poise in the pocket. They saw him exhibit that when they evaluated him on film from his days at Louisville and they are continuing to see it in practices.

“One of the strengths, one of the things we like best about him, was how he handles pressure. He’s been outstanding in all of our work,” Turner said. “He doesn’t look at the line, he feels it. He keeps his eyes up the field. He makes throws with people around him. He makes throws in real tight quarters where he doesn’t have much room to work, so that’s not a big concern. I think that’s one of the best things he does right now.”

And if that continues in the preseason, Bridgewater could end with the starting job in Week 1.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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