Little more weight for Teddy ‘would be nice’

The Vikings are hoping Teddy Bridgewater continues to gain weight and mature physically, but there are other aspects of his game he can improve to limit the sacks.

Teddy Bridgewater’s impressive first start as a rookie was followed up by a week on the inactive list.

For NFL quarterbacks, durability is a big issue, and in Bridgewater’s case a little more weight ‘would be nice,’ quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said after the Minnesota Vikings finished organized team activities last month.

Bridgewater entered his rookie season as the backup to veteran Matt Cassel, but broken bones in Cassel’s foot in Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints led to an impromptu insertion of Bridgewater into the lineup. In his initial relief performance, Bridgewater connected on 12 of 20 passes for 150 yards in 40 snaps. It was a solid beginning, but in his first NFL start the following week, he provided a glimpse of what was possible.

Facing the Atlanta Falcons, Bridgewater was 19-for-30 for 317 yards and a 98.9 passer rating. It was his best performance of the first half of the season, but it was followed by a week on the inactive list because of an ankle injury.

One of the concerns with Bridgewater when he entered the NFL was his thin frame. Would it durable enough? As it turned out, missing the Green Bay game on Oct. 2 was his only game missed, but coaches were still hoping he could put on a few pounds this offseason.

“He played last year at about 206, 207, so the only thing that I’m really worried about is durability,” Turner said. “His strength is great so that’s why we talked to him this year about maybe adding a little bit of weight, not doing anything drastic where it’s weight you can’t carry because we love his quickness, but just naturally.”

By June, Bridgewater had added a few pounds, but if things go as they did last year he could lose weight during the grind of the season. One of the hopes is that his frame will naturally fill out as he continues to mature physically.

“He’s so young I think as you get older from 22 to 25, I think men tend to bulk up a little bit anyways – some more than others – even athletic guys,” Turner said. “I think that’s something that will kind of take care of itself. We don’t want him to get hit. We know he’s going to get hit, but … being efficient with his feet and eyes, that’s going to help him too because it’s going to take some hits off his body.”

Bridgewater was sacked 39 times last year, seventh-most in the league. As a team, the Vikings took 51 sacks, fifth-most in the league, and Bridgewater’s first game back from injury featured eight sacks of him by the Detroit Lions, the lowlight of the season.

Vikings coaches will have to wait and see if he was able to add a few pounds in the last month, but ideally they would like him to start camp somewhere between 212 and 215 pounds.

“215 would be nice. That would be good. I just don’t want him to come in and then drop back down to where he was last year at 206,” Turner said. “But we’d like him to be closer to 215.”

The Vikings didn’t work on any major mechanical corrections with Bridgewater this offseason, but Turner said he encouraged Bridgewater to work on his foot quickness. Last year, one of the recurring themes from the rookie quarterback was his admission that he had to work on getting rid of the ball quicker.

The offensive line didn’t have its best outing in 2014, and injuries eventually added to the protection frustrations, but Bridgewater continued to shoulder his share of the blame when he was pressured too often in games.

“The things that I talked to him about are just keep working on his footwork and obviously quick feet. If your feet are quick, it gets your body in position to throw sooner, the ball can come out,” Turner said. “And then to focus on his eyes, making sure his eyes are in the right place – he’s being efficient with them as far as going through your progression the way you’re supposed to do it at a good time. He already makes good, quick decisions, but the more we can speed up that process, the more it helps everybody. It helps the protection, it helps the receivers get open. That’s the biggest thing. Mechanically, physically, he’s pretty good, pretty sound. There’s always some things to tinker with here and there, but we really just try to push him mentally to work fast.”

Some of that is likely to improve with time, just like his body maturing physically. With Bridgewater, the next step will be reliant on several little things.

He already proved he is an accurate passer, a diligent worker and a leader that engenders respect through performance.

He had a solid rookie season, but he and the coaches know bigger things could be on the horizon.

“I talked with Teddy after the year and we felt like he had a good rookie year, but the thing I said to him was, ‘If we’re here a year from now and you played the same way you played last year, we’re both going to be disappointed,’” Turner said. “So the No. 1 thing is him playing a year better and being better in the second year.”

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