Vikings position analysis: Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater’s performance in 2014 appears to solidify the quarterback position for the future, but Christian Ponder is likely headed elsewhere. We take a player-by-player analysis of the Vikings’ quarterback position.

Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater finished up his rookie season after the Vikings selected him out of Louisville with the 32nd pick of the 2014 draft. It was not the intention of the Vikings to start Bridgewater during his rookie season, at least as early as it happened. Instead, they wanted him to sit and learn behind veteran Matt Cassel. But after Cassel was put on injured reserve with broken bones in his foot, ending his season early, Bridgewater was thrust into the starting role. Although he struggled during a couple games, overall he played very well.

His first start was Week4 against the Atlanta Falcons, and Bridgewater did not wait to show what he was capable of. He went 19-for-30 passing for 317 yards and had a rushing touchdown in his first start. However, he missed the Week 5 game when he injured his ankle when attempting to scramble late in the game.

Once he came back from his injury, Bridgewater did not look like he was the same player, as he struggled greatly in his games against the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills. He went 38-for-63 passing in the two games for 345 yards, one touchdown, and five interceptions. Pro Football Focus also rated him with a combined -5.8 during those two games.

As the season continued, however, Bridgewater’s game appeared to improve in each game that he played. In the final five games of the season he had a quarterback rating of 100 or higher on three separate occasions. And PFF rated the performances during his final two games with a 4.9 (Miami Dolphins) and 5.0 (Chicago Bears). That 5.0 rating during the final game of the season was the highest rating he received all season.

Bridgewater finished the season as the highest rated rookie quarterback, according to PFF, with a 4.5 overall grade – next closest was Zach Mettenberger with a -7.1 rating. Bridgewater was not only the best among rookie quarterbacks, but was also the No. 15 quarterback out of the 39 graded by the analytical web site.

Throughout the season, Bridgewater went 259-for-402 passing for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran the ball 47 times for 209 yards and one touchdown.

His performance during the 2014 season solidified him as the starter for the Vikings for years to come. The young quarterback has also given Vikings fans hopes that he could be a franchise quarterback for the team, something that they have not had since Daunte Culpepper in the early 2000s.

Matt Cassel
Cassel finished his 10th year in the NFL, and his second with the Vikings. Before his time in Minnesota, Cassel played for the New England Patriots (2005-08) and the Kansas City Chiefs (2009-12).

After beating out Bridgewater for the starting job in the 2014 preseason, Cassel was expected to be the starting quarterback for the Vikings for the entirety of the season. Things clearly did not work out that way as he broke his foot during the Vikings’ Week 3 matchup with the New Orleans Saints. He was then placed on injured reserve on Sept. 24.

During his three starts, Cassel went 41-for-71 and threw for 425 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions – all of which came Week 2 against the Patriots. He played well in the first game of the season when the Vikings defeated the St. Louis Rams 34-6, but he struggled in the next two games.

With the emergence of Bridgewater, Cassel is set to be the backup quarterback and will be expected to help Bridgewater though his development.

Christian Ponder
Ponder just finished his fourth year in the NFL after the Vikings selected him in the first round out of Florida State in the 2011 draft. There was a lot of pressure put on Ponder when he first arrived in Minnesota to be a franchise quarterback. Many people thought the Vikings reached too far drafting him at No. 12 overall, but he still had numerous opportunities to earn the starting role.

Last offseason the Vikings decided to move away from Ponder and traded back into the first round of the draft in order to get Bridgewater. Ponder then started the season as the third quarterback on the depth chart and was inactive for the first three games of the season.

Once Cassel was placed on the injured reserve, Ponder was elevated to the backup quarterback position and was forced to start in the Week 5 matchup against the Green Bay Packers when Bridgewater was out with his ankle injury. Ponder went 22-for-44 and threw for 222 yards and two interceptions. He also ran the ball three times for 15 yards and a touchdown.

With Ponder being a free agent this offseason, his time in Minnesota has almost certainly come to an end. He said there is always a chance he returns, but it was clear that he wanted to go somewhere where he would have the opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Quarterbacks Overview
The Minnesota Vikings have seemingly found a starting quarterback that they can rely on for years to come in Bridgewater. Of course, he has yet to play in a full season, so it is too early to say it is a sure thing, but there were plenty of positives.

Bridgewater was just 81 yards from reaching the 3,000-yard mark during the 2014 season. The Vikings have not had a quarterback throw for 3,000 yards since Brett Favre performed the feat in 2009, and before that it was not since Culpepper did it in 2004.

Then there is the fact that Ponder is likely to leave this offseason via free agency after being with the Vikings for four years. It was definitely a love/hate relationship with the performance of Ponder, but he was able to do just enough to bring the Vikings to the playoffs in 2012 – although Adrian Peterson’s record-breaking year played a bigger role in the Vikings’ last playoff appearance.

There is still some uncertainty around the quarterback position moving forward, but the Vikings cannot be too worried about it as they seemingly have their quarterback of the future. And having that confidence seems to make all the difference for the team, and for the fan base.

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