Vikings Have Nothing to Lose by Starting Teddy Bridgewater from Day 1

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Vikings Have Nothing to Lose by Starting Teddy Bridgewater from Day 1
USA today

The Minnesota Vikings were one of a handful of teams that entered the 2014 draft with a giant question mark hanging over the quarterback position.

The Vikings raised an eyebrow or two by passing on a signal-caller with the No. 8 pick, but after Teddy Bridgewater slid, the Vikes pulled the trigger on a trade up to acquire the Louisville quarterback with the 32nd overall pick.

Now, the conversation turns to when Minnesota's "quarterback of the future" will become their passer of the present.

And frankly, that time might as well be now.

Whereas the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars have downplayed the chances of their shiny new quarterbacks starting from day one, new Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer left the door open for Bridgewater to start the season opener.

Zimmer told Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Teddy will play when we feel like he’s ready, if he’s the best guy, which we hope that he will be. We always want to have competition.”

It's not hard to see why Zimmer is hopeful Bridgewater sees the field sooner rather than later:

Gary Davenport/Blaecher Report

The Minnesota passing game ranked 23rd in the NFL last season, but that ranking doesn't begin to describe how bad things really were.

Vikings quarterbacks threw for only 18 touchdowns on the season, 27th in the league. Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman combined to complete less than 60 percent of their passes. Calling their 76.0 team passer rating so-so is being kind.

Simply put, Cassel and Ponder are average NFL quarterbacks on the best of days. The worst ones involve watching most of the game with your hands over your eyes, interspersed with the occasional groan.

The only things Bridgewater is going to learn from watching them play is a laundry list of things not to do.

So why not just roll him out there?

After all, it's not like the Vikings offense is devoid of talent. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings were a top-10 offensive line last year in run blocking but a moribund 23rd is pass protection.

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However, it's not unreasonable to think that the run-blocking numbers may look better because of a certain all-world running back, while the pass-block numbers may have been hurt by the dumpster fire under center.

The Vikings also got better up front in the draft, adding a potential starter at guard in fifth-round steal David Yankey of Stanford.

At receiver, Greg Jennings was a disappointment in his first year with Minnesota, but his play improved later in the season, and at least part of his struggles can partly be attributed to the aforementioned dumpster fire.

Cordarrelle Patterson remains a work in progress, but if the explosive 23-year-old continues to build on the flashes he showed as a rookie, the Percy Harvin trade is going to look that much better in hindsight.

Throw in one of the league's more underrated tight ends in Kyle Rudolph, and there are weapons available for Bridgewater in the passing game.

Then there's the small matter of running back Adrian Peterson. You can't put a price on the value he adds to the team where taking the pressure off Bridgewater by establishing the run is concerned.

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Pictured: A rookie QB's most bestest friend in the world.

Also, Bridgewater may well have been the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's class. As former NFL MVP Rich Gannon told Vensel, "Bridgewater is ahead of the curve mentally, having shown a knack for audibling into the right plays and checking into proper protections in Louisville’s pro-style offense."

Granted, this isn't to say there aren't risks involved with the notion of starting Bridgewater from the get-go.

Gannon concedes that Bridegwater "needs to get bigger and stronger while refining his throwing technique with offensive coordinator Norv Turner," and it's hard to argue either point.

However, Gannon also said that he's unsure how much better Bridgewater's really going to get standing around holding a clipboard. “I always say that there’s a fine line," Gannon said, "between holding a clipboard and how much you really learn compared to being out there when the bullets are flying.”

Another former Super Bowl-winning quarterback apparently agrees:

Mind you, regardless of when Bridgewater takes the field, there will be bumps in the road. Sorry, Minnesota fans, but we're not talking about Andrew "ready to start in the NFL from the age of 10" Luck here.

Of course, we're not talking about Geno Smith either. Bridgewater completed 70 percent of his passes last year. He displayed the best pocket presence and pre-snap play recognition of any quarterback in this year's class.

In short, Teddy Bridgewater is about as ready as he's going to get, and if you want to see what the kid can do...

There's one way to find out.

 

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter: @IDPManor.

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