Teddy Bridgewater earned a rookie reputation as a reserved but respected leader.
Early in 2014, Bridgewater was expected to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft, something that changed after a rocky pro-day performance. As the eventual 32nd pick in the draft, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback wasn’t expected to start, something that changed in the third game of the season when Matt Cassel was lost with a broken foot. Without his veteran quarterback presence at his side or the 2012 NFL MVP in Adrian Peterson, Bridgewater wasn’t expected to have the success he did, something that changed immediately and improved as the season ended.
Through it all, Bridgewater was a leader with his actions as much as his mouth. The quiet, respectful rookie had one of the best rookie quarterback performances in NFL history with his 64.4 completion percentage.
But one thing Bridgewater and offensive coordinator Norv Turner lacked was a downfield threat. They found that this offseason when the Vikings dumped receiver Greg Jennings and traded for speedster Mike Wallace. In only a short time working with Bridgewater, Wallace seemed to have his assessment of Bridgewater nailed.
“Composed guy. Fun guy. He’s having fun out here, has control of the offense,” Wallace said. “An accurate guy, man. Silent killer.”
Now that the Vikings have their star running back in the fold, much of the success of the passing offense will rely on Bridgewater’s ability to connect deep with Wallace and keep defenses guessing which respected playmaker will get the ball – Peterson in the backfield, Wallace or Charles Johnson deep down the sideline or Kyle Rudolph working the middle of the field.
“I (Wallace) is a dynamic receiver and he’s been doing a great job of working, he’s a guy that works very, very hard,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s been catching the ball well. He’s been learning the playbook. All of these things are all different, but he’s looked good.”
Wallace started his career as a one of the NFL’s best deep threats, averaging 18.7 yards per catch in his first three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the last two years in the Miami Dolphins offense that focused more on the short passing game dropped Wallace’s average below 13 yards per catch.
He’s excited by what Turner’s scheme has to offer in the deep passing game, calling it a “legendary” offense.
While the scheme will help put Wallace in position to reclaim his status among the league’s elite deep threats, it takes time to establish a rapport with a new quarterback-receiver combination.
“We do a little something extra every day. Whatever we didn’t get right on the field, we’ll go out and correct,” Wallace said. “… Time kind of restrains you from doing certain things right now so you’ve got to be on and off the field. Every day we do something after practice to get a little bit better.”
Bridgewater, never shy about putting in extra work, backed that assessment.
“You just have to continue to put the time in. There are days where we stay behind and we complete passes, we work on routes that we may have ran in practice that day,” he said. “Talk about Mike Wallace, he’s over there on the JUGS machine catching passes now. It’s just putting in that little extra work that’s going to help you do it that next day and it’s just going to continue to help me.”
There is plenty new in Wallace’s life. New city. New team. New quarterback. And his fifth different offensive coordinator in the last five years.
Yet, his early impressions of Bridgewater have produced a positive impression.
“Young quarterback. The young quarterback was continually getting better every single game at the end of last year. I saw that,” Wallace said. “They gave us a tough game at the end of last year at Miami. Hopefully we can get the guy (Peterson) back and then things will be up.”
“The guy” is now back, putting all the puzzle pieces to Turner’s offense in place that will allow Wallace better matchups and the “silent killer” the opportunity to find him deep downfield.
Wallace calls Bridgewater ‘silent killer’
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