Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been receiving a lot of hype this offseason and he seemed to live up to it in the eyes of his coaches and fans during his team’s first preseason game last Friday.
He wowed people with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson, landing the ball perfectly in his Johnson’s hands as he crossed the goal line. It was a feat that not many saw Bridgewater complete in the first two seasons of his career, even if the receiver was running wide open down the field like Johnson was. But there was another throw that he made earlier in the drive that may be able to highlight his improvements even more.
The Vikings were on their own 18-yard line facing a third-and-7. Bridgewater lined up in the shotgun, received the snap and then waited for the different routes to develop. He then rifled the ball down the middle of the field to Adam Thielen, threading it between two defenders, for a 22-yard gain and a new set of downs.
“I don’t know if Teddy makes that throw a year ago,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He throws it into tight coverage, a tight window, and we pick up the third-down (conversion), the first down.”
Bridgewater reiterated that it was a pass that he probably wouldn’t have thrown last year or his rookie season, but his trust in his receivers continues to grow as he continues to get more reps with them.
“That’s definitely something that I told Adam also. I said, ‘Man, that’s probably a pass I wouldn’t have thrown a year ago, two years ago,’” Bridgewater explained. “But it’s just having confidence and being comfortable. Trusting that those guys are going to go out there and make those plays for you. I threw the ball, Adam did all the work. Going up and making the catch across the middle on a big third down, and that’s what we expect from those guys.”
Bridgewater is now entering his third year in the NFL and he knows that the offense needs to take advantage of opportunities down the field if his team is going to be successful. Whether it’s completing a ball in tight coverage for a first down; like his pass to Thielen, or hitting a receiver wide open down the field for a touchdown, like his pass to Johnson. Those passes need to be delivered on target more often than not.
So far it appears he has taken a step in the right direction in being able to do that. He has been connecting with his receivers on a consistent basis throughout organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the Vikings’ first preseason game. Though Bridgewater did not say it specifically, a big part of that seems to be his added comfort level with his receivers.
He has been working with players like Thielen, Johnson, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph for three years now and this will be his second season with Stefon Diggs and MyCole Pruitt. He has also gotten together with those players multiple times during the offseason, outside of team activities, to get some extra work.
All that time together seems to be paying dividends, as Bridgewater appears to be on the same page as all his different targets.
“To have those guys out there making plays, flying around, it’s fun, especially being the quarterback,” he said. “I get to throw the ball to those guys and watch them make plays for us.”
The Vikings offense is going to face a tough test this Thursday as it heads to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, and any success the first-team offense has likely will stem from Bridgewater completing the ball to his receivers, especially down the field. Those plays spread the defense out and open up things underneath, which benefits the Vikings both in the running game and the passing game.