In Mike Zimmer’s mind, there is no question Teddy Bridgewater is the starting quarterback for Minnesota Vikings in 2016. Bridgewater showed improvement in his second season in the NFL, earning the right to continue his ascent.
He started every game in 2015, showing durability despite taking 44 sacks and being pressured numerous other times. His completion percentage inched up a notch, from 64.4 to 65.3, although he didn’t reach his goal of 70 percent. His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio dropped from 14-to-12 to 14-to-9, helping his passer rating improve from 85.2 to 88.7. And he had three rushing touchdowns after producing only one in his rookie season.
The statistics and improvements were incremental rather than impressive, but it was still progress.
“I think what was asked of my position, I think we did a good job of doing what was asked of it, and now it’s just time to take that extra step,” Bridgewater said after the season. “And I’m going to come back next year with the same intensity, the same focus and be even better.”
Zimmer threw praise Bridgewater’s way a couple days after their season ended with a wild card loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“Everything about Teddy I love,” Zimmer said. “There’s not one thing I don’t love about this kid. He’s got the right demeanor, the right heart, the right competitiveness and he’s a worker. He makes quick decisions so we need to continue to move forward with him and keep going.”
Zimmer said then the one thing he wanted to see Bridgewater improve was his throwing motion, to come over the top a little more.
A couple weeks later at the Senior Bowl, Zimmer expanded on that thought, but emphasized it won’t be a major shift in mechanics that he is looking for from Bridgewater.
“Sometimes he’ll bend down a little bit. He just needs to get more upright,” Zimmer said.
“… He drops (the elbow) because his whole body comes down. But when he stands up a little straighter, tighter, when he releases it – if he can just get it up a little bit higher, his release point, most of the time he does. But he just has periods in games or periods in different weeks in practices where it will do that.”
In the playoff loss, Bridgewater performed well, setting the highest completion percentage (70.8) for a Vikings quarterback in a postseason game. But he also garnered a reputation for taking the check-down option too often instead of pushing the passing game downfield more when opportunities are there.
“Just being more aggressive. I’m going to spend some time watching the tape, watching all of the pass plays, all the running plays, just critique them myself,” Bridgewater said. “Some little things that I can do better.”
He also had a couple passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the playoff loss, and that has tended to happen with some of his passes, although Zimmer said he didn’t think Bridgewater’s throwing motion contributed to those in the Seattle game.
“I don’t think that had anything to do with the ones that were batted down,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes when you’re throwing the ball over the middle it’s short-trajectory throws, but you still have to find windows to throw it in.”
Zimmer wants to see the pass protection improve, and he also said during the season that he would like to see Bridgewater become more assertive in helping shape the game plan with suggestions for plays he likes more than others.
“That’s something that I continue to work on,” the quarterback said about becoming more vocal. “The guys know that I’m a genuine guy. When I do say something it speaks volumes. I’m in a position right now where I get to lead this group of men in this locker room and I’m glad to be in this position.”
He will remain in that position for 2016 and the hope is that a tweak in his throwing motion will help his ascent continue.