For all the quarterback gurus, consultants and coaches out there, one of the most important aspects of the position may be one that is nearly impossible to teach.
All the greats have it, according to Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and it appears his rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater does, too.
It’s too early to say for certain just how successful Bridgewater, at 21 years old, will be, but so far all signs look very promising.
Bridgewater has drawn rave reviews from teammates and coaches for his poise in the pocket. While his scrambling ability has garnered attention, too, after four first downs rushing, his biggest strength might be moving in the pocket to buy time. He just has “it.”
“There’s four or five times where he moved around with his feet. He’s very quick getting the ball out. He finds the lane,” Turner said. “I talked about the pass to (Greg) Jennings, he stepped inside, slid to the right, threw the ball. If you’re going to be good, everyone’s got to do their part and the offensive line had a great effort. … Teddy did a great job with decision-making and getting the ball out. We avoided negative plays and that’s what you have to do if you’re going to play good.”
Bridgewater completed 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards and a 98.9 passer rating in his first start Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. He wasn’t sacked once and was hurried only one time. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater has only been pressured 32.5 percent of his dropbacks, but the pressure hasn’t seemed to bother him.
“I think it reminds me of the guys who are the most successful quarterbacks in this league. They’re not affected by the rush,” Turner said. “They keep their eyes up the field. They get a lot of completions. They get a lot of plays made when some other guys it would be a negative play. I don’t know that there’s a guy you’d look at and say he’s been a great, productive quarterback that doesn’t have that type of awareness.”
The Falcons only sent the blitz eight times when Bridgewater dropped back to pass. On one of their two six-man rushes, on Bridgewater’s third dropback of the game, he delivered a quick strike to Jarius Wright that the receiver turned into a 52-yard gain. When the Falcons sent seven rushers after him because they were initially expecting a run for a two-point conversion, Bridgewater carried out the fake and delivered the two-point score to Rhett Ellison.
Another five-man rush by the Falcons in the first quarter produced a 29-yard pass play to Greg Jennings, who was left mismatched with a defensive end, Kroy Biermann, dropping into coverage.
Turner said he spent a lot of time talking with former San Diego Chargers general manager John Butler, who passed away in 2003, about the quarterback position. Butler was the personnel director and general manager during the Buffalo Bills’ four straight trips to the Super Bowl from 1991-94, then moved to San Diego, where he drafted LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees.
Turner learned some quarterback traits are tangible at a private workout, like arm strength and accuracy. Other traits can’t be gleaned in those settings, like poise and pocket presence.
That’s why the Vikings weren’t as concerned by Bridgewater’s poor pro day. Extra time spent with him in private workouts, meetings and film sessions showed he could handle the pressure.
“We were talking about Teddy’s (pro day) workout – you can’t evaluate that in a workout. You go to a workout and you can’t tell his pocket presence,” Turner said. “You can’t tell his vision. You can’t tell his feel for the game. That’s why you go watch all the tape and there’s no question, we’ve all seen it. He certainly throws the ball well enough. Now you add the presence, the vision, the accuracy, it all ties together.”
Turner added: “There’s certain things you can coach and certain things you can’t. The guys that have it, have it. He’s probably had it, if you went back and watched him play in high school, he probably had that same type of presence.”
Bridgewater has what isn’t easily coached
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