No. 32 was not a pick the Vikings originally held, but instead they traded back into the first round to draft what they believed was their franchise quarterback. There were a lot of questions surrounding Bridgewater on draft day. At one point it was thought he was going to be the No. 1 overall draft pick, but after a poor pro day Bridgewater’s draft stock plummeted.
Even with all the questions surrounding him, the Vikings still took a chance and traded back into the first round to take him.
The Vikings’ original plan at the beginning of the 2014 season was to have Bridgewater sit for a year behind Matt Cassel to learn the offense and improve his game. But when Cassel suffered a season ending injury to his foot in Week 3, it was Teddy Time.
In his first start Bridgewater threw for 317 yards and scrambled for a touchdown. Toward the end of the game, however, he sprained his ankle and was forced to miss the Week 5 game against the Green Bay Packers.
When Bridgewater came back, he initially didn’t have the same kind of success and would struggle with throwing interceptions and getting sacked. Bridgewater also struggled connecting with receivers 20-plus yards down the field.
That led to questions about his ability to connect on the deep ball, but whenever his coaches were asked about it they would always say he has the ability to throw it. Not only that, but he would be able to hit his targets in practice, it was just game time situations he seemed to struggle with.
Shortly thereafter, everything seemed to click for Bridgewater. He could hit receivers downfield with accuracy, his touchdowns went up and both the sacks and interceptions went down. Bridgewater finished his rookie season with 259 completions on 402 attempts for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran for 209 yards and one touchdown on 47 attempts.
With a full season, and the fan-voted Pepsi Rookie of the Year award under his belt, Viking Update takes a look at Bridgewater’s performance throughout his first year.
Play No. 1Bridgewater has the ability to scramble when he needs to, but he would much rather sit in the pocket and pass the ball. There was even one point in the season when head coach Mike Zimmer said he had to tell Bridgewater to run the ball if he has room to run.
For a quarterback who does not like to run, Bridgewater is a surprisingly fast player. He is also a smart runner and knows to get down or get out of bounds before he takes a big hit. At the same time, he is not afraid to take a hit and is willing to take some contact if he needs to.
This first play demonstrates that toughness as he dives headfirst into the end zone, between multiple defenders, for his first career touchdown.
Having a quarterback who has the ability to scramble can really help an offense pick up first downs and extra yardage. It also causes defenses to have to worry about an extra aspect of his game and that can sometimes open up things down the field in the passing game.
Play No.2As the season developed you could begin to see Bridgewater become more comfortable with the Vikings offense and being a team leader – both on the field and in the locker room. He also got more comfortable in pre-snap situations, both changing plays and recognizing defenses.
There is no better example of that than the Vikings’ Week 14 game against the New York Jets. It was overtime and the Jets had been blitzing Bridgewater throughout the game. Before the ball is snapped, you can see Bridgewater change the play at the line of scrimmage to a screen to counteract the blitz.
The throw was a little high and Jarius Wright made a great play to get down the field, but it was Bridgewater’s original decision to change the play that led to the game-winning touchdown. Having a quarterback able to distinguish that type of thing before the ball is even snapped is a bonus with a rookie making the calls, and he should only improve in that aspect of his game as he gains more experience.
Play No. 3Coming out of college, Bridgewater was always thought to be an accurate passer, and that was a skill that carried over into the NFL. Since he first took the field he was always able to connect on short and intermediate routes on a consistent basis.
Bridgewater was always able to fit the ball into tight spaces and put them into places where only his receivers could catch it. This is an important skill for quarterbacks to have, especially when in the red zone when the windows are a lot smaller.
In this play, Bridgewater has a defensive lineman in his face but is still able to get the ball away. Not only get it away, but he was able to thread it through a tight window and put it just out of the reach of a diving defensive back.
Bridgewater’s ability to complete passes like this one make it so he doesn’t have to rely on a tall receiver to out-jump his opponent once the Vikings reach the red zone. Instead, he can place the ball where it needs to be placed and just rely on his receivers making the catch.
Play No. 4As previously mentioned, Bridgewater struggled at the beginning of the year hitting open receivers 20-plus yards down the field. Whether it was nerves, needing to get a better connection with his receivers, or just something else is not known. But as the season progressed his ability to hit the deep ball improved.
This pass is a perfect example of just that. Adam Thielen gets behind the defense and is running open towards the end zone. Bridgewater is able to see him get past the defensive back and then lets the ball fly and hits Thielen in stride.
Having the ability to stretch the field is important for any offense because it then helps open things up underneath. If the quarterback can’t hit a receiver down field, then the safeties will start to cheat up and take away more of the short and intermediate routes.
Play No. 5One downside to Bridgewater’s game is his height. He measures in at 6-foot-2, which is just a little shorter than you want an NFL quarterback to be. His release point is also a little lower than you might hope it would be, and both of those lead to more balls being batted down at the line of scrimmage.
This play led to a worst-case scenario type of situation because it is third-and-2, and instead of converting the first down the ball gets batted down at the line of scrimmage. Then when the ball is still in the air, one of the defenders is able to get his hands on it and intercept the ball.
Seeing balls batted down at the line of scrimmage might just be something Vikings fans will have to get used to as Bridgewater remains the starting quarterback. One thing he will need to continue to work on is finding the open throwing lanes and being able to hit his receivers as they run through them.
Play No. 6Even though Bridgewater is an accurate passer for the most part, he is still a young quarterback and makes mistakes from time to time. In this play, he could hit Greg Jennings on the sideline for a completion, but instead he places the ball behind Jennings and the defender is able to intercept it.
It is plays like this one that people need to understand are going to happen when you have a young quarterback leading the team. A lack in judgment for a moment that leads to a turnover happens to all quarterbacks, but young ones tend to get bitten most.
Luckily for Vikings fans, however, this type of play is not the norm for Bridgewater and he is usually able to make good decisions.
Bridgewater was the third quarterback taken in the 2014 draft, but he had a better season than the other quarterbacks drafted. As he continues to get more experience, his game should improve, which is something Vikings fans have been looking for since the days of Daunte Culpepper – having a quarterback who stays with an organization for multiple years and is able to lead his team to the playoffs on a consistent basis.
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