Updates from Wednesday, July 9
Earlier this week, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner spoke to Paul Allen on KFAN FM 100.3 about the three quarterbacks battling for the starting job this summer, per Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com:
Teddy Bridgewater: 'Teddy's been really, really impressive and a lot further along than I expected him to be.'
A few weeks back at the Vikings annual charity golf tournament, Turner also said this about his rookie quarterback: 'I think he’s saying all the right things. He’s really a competitor. I think he has his sights set on playing and playing well as soon as he can, so that’s what you want.'
Matt Cassel: 'I think that Matt Cassel has had an outstanding spring and is getting himself ready to really have a good year.'
Christian Ponder: 'Christian Ponder, I know people like to beat up on him, but I've been impressed with Christian. With his physical ability and the way he's worked and the progress he's made. He's eliminating a lot of the negative plays.'
The Minnesota Vikings are leaving no stone unturned in determining their starting quarterback for the 2014 NFL season. Incumbent signal-callers Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder will be in the derby for the top spot on the depth chart, along with rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater.
ESPN.com's Ben Goesseling reports Tuesday that Minnesota will hold, at least in theory, an even competition before naming a starter for Week 1. Head coach Mike Zimmer commented on the matter, dismissing Cassel as the No. 1 QB:
I've never said that. I know I've heard other people say it, but I've never said it. From the day I walked in here, I said I want tough, intelligent, smart football players and I want competition at every position. To me, we're still competing, everybody's still competing for jobs. I'm competing to be a good head coach, assistants are competing to be good assistant head coaches. Again, I don't want to rush into anything.
[...] Everybody wants to rush into things, but it's more important to me to make the right decision and when you do, then we'll go with it and hope it's the right call.
Divvying up reps evenly between three quarterbacks is going to be difficult. While Cassel played well when given the opportunity in 2013, he ultimately didn't play up to par as a franchise QB for the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Vikings last season.
But at least there's some indication that Cassel can fit in and manage an offense loaded with playmakers. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has been a brilliant play-caller for years, and with Cassel being brought up in the complex New England Patriots offense to begin his career, he should have some initial leverage on Bridgewater.
Ponder seems resigned to the fact that he won't be in the running for the job. The 2011 first-round draft choice has never lived up to his billing. He recently shared his thoughts on the situation with Charley Walters of TwinCities.com, implying that Bridgewater has a chance to unseat the favorite in Cassel:
We'll see how it plays out once it goes to training camp, but obviously there's an agenda to try to get Teddy ready, and Cassel's the starter right now. [...] (Bridgewater) is good. He's got a great arm, and he's very accurate. He spins the ball really well. He's picking up things pretty quickly. I like him a lot.
It's not awkward -- I understand what's going on. I had some opportunities that I didn't take full advantage of. If I would have played better, I wouldn't be in the situation here right now. We'll see how it plays out -- football's a crazy game.
Perhaps the athletic ability Ponder brings to the gridiron could get him back in the race. For whatever it's worth, Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall tweeted a promising update from minicamp on Tuesday:
Impressive series of throws from Ponder during this 7-on-7 period. Lasers to Patterson, Jennings and Thielen.— Mike Wobschall (@wobby) June 17, 2014
With just one year remaining on his contract and a 77.3 career passer rating, though, Ponder doesn't seem likely to figure into the picture.
Bridgewater is as pro-ready of a quarterback as anyone in his draft class, having played in an offense at Louisville that gave him the latitude to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Straying off script may be something Turner resents to a degree.
However, if Bridgewater can make an immediate splash, the sky is the limit for this offense. The Vikings are solid in the receiving corps with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright, and also have a Pro Bowl, pass-catching tight end in Kyle Rudolph.
Oh, and Minnesota also has the best running back in football in Adrian Peterson.
One noteworthy element to Turner's system is throwing the ball deep downfield. None of these three QBs have eye-popping arm talent, so it will be interesting to see how they're utilized. Having Peterson carry the load certainly helps.
Who should start at QB for the Vikings in 2014?
As far as who figures to ultimately come out on top in this battle, it's still a bit premature to speculate on the final outcome. Training camp and the preseason are still far away, but the competition between Cassel and Bridgewater should be exciting.
It's clear that Minnesota drafted Bridgewater to be the long-term answer. He may even become the immediate solution to the Vikings' woes under center. In Ponder's case, it appears he's more of a lame-duck asset that the front office will seek to trade or rid themselves of, whether it's before, during or after 2014.
Barring a true career renaissance, Cassel is nothing more than a short-term stopgap until Bridgewater is deemed ready. Thus, don't be surprised if Bridgewater takes control of the huddle, proves he is NFL material and beats out Cassel to start the opener at home against the Oakland Raiders.
The NFC North features three high-octane offenses in Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. Bridgewater seems like the most dynamic all-around option to provide Minnesota with a spark.