Film Room: Matt Cassel vs. Teddy Bridgewater

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Film Room: Matt Cassel vs. Teddy Bridgewater
Jim Mone/Associated Press

Since the Minnesota Vikings' preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, the surplus of overreaction surrounding the quarterback situation is a bit astounding.

On one hand there is current starter Matt Cassel.

Cassel is a solid game manager who led the Kansas City Chiefs to a playoff appearance in 2010, but injuries and inconsistency led him to a backup role in Minnesota last season before he eventually took over as the starter.

On the other hand, Teddy Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, seems to be setting out to prove all of his doubters—and every team that passed on him during the first 31 picks of the draft—wrong.

During training camp, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, as per the Vikings' official website—raved about how far ahead of the curve Bridgewater seemed to be.

Following an underwhelming showing in his first game, some have started to jump ship from the Bridgewater bandwagon, all but declaring Cassel the Week 1 starter in their opinion.

After hearing both sides of the argument, I decided to ignore the always-entertaining overreactions and see for myself just how well each performed individually.

Here is an in-depth (maybe too in-depth) breakdown on how each fared last week in three different categories: accuracy (also includes ball placement and decision-making), passing under pressure and situational passing (third down, red zone).

 

Accuracy, ball placement and decision-making

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

According to the box score, Cassel had a better performance, completing five of his six pass attempts while playing the first drive of the game.

Tuner didn't get too creative and called short passes for the most part on Cassel's only drive of the game, opting to call pass plays where Cassel would make short-to-intermediate throws.

On his three completions within 15 yards, Cassel consistently delivered the ball behind his receivers, forcing them to adjust to haul in the reception.

Cassel's other two completions were on 17-yarders to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

On the pass to Patterson, the throw was slightly low and behind his intended target, allowing the second-year pro (and breakout candidate) the opportunity to show off his solid body control and hands to make a diving catch.

On the completion to Rudolph, which was just outside of the red zone, Cassel delivered a nearly perfect pass that allowed Rudolph to haul it in with a slight leap, gaining six additional yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

Running back Matt Asiata was able to find pay dirt on the next play, capping off a solid drive from the veteran signal-caller.

Cassel's lone incompletion came on a throw to Greg Jennings, who was running a dig route to the right sideline.

Despite a lack of pressure and Jennings having inside leverage on the Oakland defensive back, Cassel fired a pass over his head out of bounds.

Bridgewater took over on the next drive, allowing him to play one possession with the starting unit (excluding Adrian Peterson).

On the night, Bridgewater put up an underwhelming 6-of-13 passing effort for 49 yards. One of those incompletions came courtesy of a dropped pass on a third down by tight end Rhett Ellison.

The rookie out of Louisville threw his best pass of the night on his first play under center.

On a first down on Minnesota's 46-yard line, Bridgewater rolled out after a play-action fake.

Rolling right, Bridgewater delivered a beautiful 21-yard pass on the run to the sideline to Jennings. The play was called back because of a false start.

The next play wasn't successful on the stat sheet, but it did allow him to show off his elusiveness.

With an unblocked defender closing quick on him, Bridgewater used his feet to change direction and evade the pass-rusher, but he threw an incompletion that fell about five yards short of his target.

noonkick.com
Here, Bridgewater uses his quickness to step up in the pocket, avoiding a sack.

Bridgewater's first drive led to a field goal, thanks mostly to two costly Raiders penalties.

After an uneventful second drive that resulted in a punt, Bridgewater struggled to move the ball again on his third possession.

Despite this, he showed off good anticipation and ball placement on a second-down pass to Jerome Simpson.

Bridgewater delivered an accurate ball just as Simpson completed his curl route along the right sideline.

His decision-making needs to be improved a bit.

There were times that it appeared that he trusted his arm a bit too much.

On two consecutive plays on his second drive of the game, Bridgewater attempted passes to blanketed receivers, which were both broken up by Raiders cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.

noonkick.com
On this play, Bridgewater delivers a throw to a receiver running a quick slant. He fails to identify that his receiver hasn't broke the press yet and Chekwa is able to get a hand in to knock the ball loose.

If he continues to make throws to blanketed receivers like that, he won't be so lucky to get away with a simple deflected pass.

All in all, Bridgewater's accuracy was a bit inconsistent.

His throws were compromised when he rushed things or didn't set his feet and transfer his weight correctly, specifically on a second-down incompletion on a 15-yard curl route.

As Bridgewater earns more reps, he should become more consistent. This is something to watch Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.

 

Under pressure

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

During the 10 plays that Cassel appeared on, he was only under pressure three times.

One of those plays resulted in a sack, while he completed passes on his other two attempts for 25 yards.

Bridgewater was under duress a little more often, six times to be exact.

Although he showed off his athleticism and ability to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure, he was sacked twice (including a strip-sack in the red zone) and completed just one of his four pass attempts for 10 yards.

noonkick.com
On this play, Bridgewater (not pictured because of the size of the photo) stares down his receiver (19) running a crossing route. Instead of identifying his tight end, who has beat his man to the outside, Bridgewater takes a sack (which was called back because of an Oakland penalty).

Bridgewater is going to have to improve how he performs under pressure if he has hopes of taking over for Cassel by time the regular-season opener rolls around.

 

Situational Passing

Cassel didn't have a red-zone pass attempt, but he was efficient on third down when he had time in the pocket.

He showed a good amount of poise on two of the three times he was pressured, completing both of his passes for 21 yards.

On the other third down, Cassel was sacked immediately after executing a play-action fake.

Bridgewater reached the red zone once, but he was sacked (and stripped), and the Vikings called running plays twice before a field-goal attempt.

During the 48 plays he appeared, eight of them were third downs.

In reality, Bridgewater faced 10 third downs, but two were called back due to Oakland penalties.

The penalties were both defensive holdings, one of which occurred on a 10-yard sack.

Of those eight third downs, six were running plays (one of which was a play where Bridgewater ran out of bounds for a three-yard loss after having nothing available downfield).

Another rushing play was interesting, as it was a draw on 3rd-and-19. It is a bit unclear as to why they didn't draw up a play to test Bridgewater's accuracy downfield.

He completed one of his two pass attempts, which was on a completion to his checkdown Mike Higgins for a first down.

It will be interesting moving forward to see if the Vikings put more trust in Bridgewater in these situations. The decision to run on a majority of their third-down plays could be due to his inexperience. 

 

Overview 

Based solely on the first week's performance, Cassel appears to be in the driver's seat of this quarterback competition, although the gap isn't nearly as wide as some are making it out to be. 

There is still work to be done by Bridgewater. His ability to read defenses will improve with experience. He has some minor technical issues (footwork) that need to be improved as well. 

He has three more preseason games to improve on his deficiencies and, considering how talented he is and how coachable he appears to be, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him unseat Cassel before the beginning of the 2014 regular season. 

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