Vikings careful not to overload Bridgewater

Mike Zimmer is walking the fine line of instruction without overload when it comes to Teddy Bridgewater’s development. The stats show when Bridgewater is best.

The Minnesota Vikings are taking a patient approach with the development of Teddy Bridgewater.

While the fan base still has legitimate questions about whether Bridgewater, the rookie quarterback who was the final pick of the first round in May’s draft, is the long-term solution at quarterback, head coach Mike Zimmer has maintained throughout the season that Bridgewater can and should be future of the franchise.

But Zimmer is taking a different approach with Bridgewater, showing patience even while starting him for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve never coached everybody the same. Some guys you’re a little tougher on than you are other guys. Teddy, when you critique him, he wants to do it right the next time every time and I don’t necessarily think that jumping down his throat is the right way to get results from him because I don’t think he needs that,” Zimmer said. “There are other guys that I think need that, but Teddy has always been very open to criticism and very open to trying to get better and get going.”

Ever since Bridgewater became the starter after the Week 3 foot injury that ended veteran Matt Cassel’s season, the rookie has talked about trying to be “too perfect” when talking about missed throws. However, he continues to have erratic performances, often looking much better in the second half of games than in the first half.

Last Sunday was just the latest example.

In the first half against the Green Bay Packers, he connected on only 11 of 22 passes for 122 yards, one touchdown and an interception. There were several times where he missed an open receiver on throws that shouldn’t be considered difficult. In the second half he hit on 10 of 15 passes, often taking the check-down option, for 78 yards and one touchdown.

Bridgewater said offensive coordinator Norv Turner stressed at halftime that they have to be more aggressive.

“Turner came into the locker room and he told us that for some reason the first 10 minutes of the game we’re trying to feel our way through, we’re trying to see if we can play with our opponents,” Bridgewater said. “That’s been the issue, like Coach Turner said, that we’re trying to feel our way through on those first couple of possessions, but we just have to go out and bring it to our opponents right away.

In reality, it might not be as much about the first and second half as it is about the first quarters in each of those halves versus the final quarters. In the first and third quarter of games, Bridgewater has completed a combined 46 of 84 passes for 496 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and a 70.3 rating. In the second and fourth quarters, those numbers escalate to 112 of 178 for 1,193 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions for a 78.2 rating.

“I see him each day doing things better each and every time. I’m sure he can tell you he’s had a lot of new experiences this year with everything and he’ll continue for the rest of the season. I think that all of these things will continue to help him because he’ll put them in his memory bank and he’ll work at all of the other things, just running the offense for however many weeks he’ll end up running it for 10 or 13 weeks or something like that. I think that will help him in the future, yes.”

Bridgewater blamed his ball placement for his slow first half against the Packers.

“Those are throws that I hit nine out of 10 times in practice,” Bridgewater said. “Just in the game I wasn’t able to hit some of those throws. Each week we get a chance to just go out there and make improvements and build off of last week’s performance.”

Zimmer said he is careful not to get too specific with his instruction with Bridgewater because of the way the rookie processes information, indicating the Bridgewater might still be thinking too much when in a game.

“He is extremely conscientious and you almost have to be careful that you don’t say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re going to get’ because if it doesn’t happen, well, “Coach told me this,’” Zimmer said. “I try to be generic in a lot of things that I tell him and really a lot of times it’s, ‘Just be you, you’re good enough. You do things great every day in practice, you do great things at the end of the game.’ Probably what I need to do is tell him we’re behind every series when we go out there and we need to score this series because he’s pretty good when he needs to be.”

That’s true. When trailing with less than four minutes to go, Bridgewater’s stats improve to a 72.7 completion percentage and a 92.2 pass rating.

Bridgewater is preaching consistency for himself, and Zimmer said there are a lot of factors that weigh into how a young quarterback adapts and handles criticism.

“It’s personality I think a little bit,” Zimmer said. “… I think it’s all a little bit of people around them, their personality, how the defense helps them. There’s a lot of factors. There’s just so many different variables with the quarterback.”

Because of that, Zimmer is trying to walk the fine line and help Bridgewater’s understanding without overloading him with too much specific information.

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