Even if it doesn’t look like it, there is a fair amount of intrigue at the quarterback position for the Minnesota Vikings. The starter is set in stone and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, but there is plenty of competition going on behind him, and there could be some shifting pieces in the coming years.
Projected starter: Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater has been the starting quarterback for the Vikings since he took over for an injured Matt Cassel during the third week of the 2014 season, the same year the Vikings traded back into the first round to draft him. He has had a bit of an up and down career since becoming the team’s full-time starter, but his development appears to be going in the right direction.
The team ended the 2014 season with a 7-9 record, but went 6-6 with Bridgewater as the starter. They continued on to go 11-5 the following season with Bridgewater as a starter, while also earning the NFC North Division title and a home playoff game.
Bridgewater went 292-for-447 (65.3 percent) throwing the ball last year for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran the ball 44 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Despite the decent stats and the team’s continued success with him under center, people continue to knock Bridgewater’s play.
One area they criticize is his low number of touchdowns; he has thrown 14 in each of his first two seasons. While he does need to increase that number, the low amount is not all his fault. A lot of quarterbacks get their high number of touchdowns from getting easy completions inside the red zone, and Bridgewater doesn’t always have that luxury.
When his team gets inside scoring distance, Adrian Peterson is often looked to first. It’s not always a bad strategy, but it essentially takes Bridgewater out of the game when he could be most effective. There are sometimes, however, where Bridgewater will get a chance inside the red zone and throw the ball away instead of risking a turnover.
That is another area that people want to see some improvement in his game. He is one of the more cautious quarterbacks in the NFL with the ball, and people, both fans and his coaches, want to see him take more chances by airing the ball out down the field and trusting his receivers in tight windows.
It’s important to remember, though, that Bridgewater is still one of the younger quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s just 23 years old, so there is plenty of time for him to continue to develop. After all, he is winning games and that is really all that matters in the end.
Keep an eye on
Hill vs Heinicke:
Hill was Bridgewater’s backup a year ago and that does not appear to be changing, especially since the Vikings didn’t try to alter his contract this offseason, which includes a $3.25 million cap hit. But there is always the possibility that he gets beat out by a younger player.
The veteran quarterback is entering into his 15th NFL season and at the age of 36 there are simply some things he is not capable of doing anymore. He has never been a scrambler, but is even less of one now and the velocity that he puts on the ball isn’t what it once was. What he does have, though, is experience and that is something that a younger quarterback will not be able to offer.
Heinicke, on the other hand, proved to be a quality quarterback during the Vikings’ final two preseason games a year ago. The coaching staff is clearly high on him because they signed him to their 53-man roster, so other teams couldn’t poach him off their practice squad, and kept him there all season.
He has been a winner at every level of football he has played at and with a year of experience in Norv Turner’s system he may just be in position to take over the role of Bridgewater’s backup quarterback. The big question following training camp, though, will be whether or not the coaching staff would feel comfortable handing the ball over to Heinicke if Bridgewater were to go down with injury.
Heinicke vs Stave:
The Vikings have shown that they are willing to keep three quarterbacks on their active roster and the question becomes whether it will be Heinicke or Stave this season if Hill is kept as the primary backup to Bridgewater. Both players offer things the other doesn’t and there are both positives and negatives about their games.
Heinicke is a versatile quarterback in the fact that he can both throw and run the ball well. He is a very accurate passer but does not have the big arm some like at the position. He is also undersized at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds.
Stave, on the other hand, comes in at 6-5, 230 pounds, which is an ideal height for the quarterback position and he also has a cannon for an arm. His biggest issues, though, are that he is inexperienced and he is erratic throwing the ball.
While there are still plenty of things that Bridgewater needs to prove, he has cemented his role as the Vikings' starting quarterback for the 2016 season. The questions of the position lie more with the players behind him on the depth chart.
Hill will likely begin the season as Bridgewater’s backup with either Heinicke or Stave being placed on the 53-man roster to continue to develop and learn the position. At this point it appears Heinicke will be the man, but it is possible Stave could jump him for that spot if he has a good training camp, since he appears to possess more upside.