Teddy Bridgewater Needs Big Preseason Turnaround to Compete for Vikings QB Job

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Teddy Bridgewater Needs Big Preseason Turnaround to Compete for Vikings QB Job
USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are sold on Teddy Bridgewater being a great NFL quarterback sooner or later, but it's looking like later if his first few weeks of training camp are any indication.

The rookie hasn't been able to force head coach Mike Zimmer's hand into any more playing time with the first team in practice, with those reps belonging to Matt Cassel. In fact, Tuesday's practice saw Cassel taking all of the first-team reps in 11-on-11 and Bridgewater only taking reps with the second team, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Mark Craig

It became apparent as to why in Tuesday's practice. He threw three interceptions that, according to Craig, should have been four without a dropped ball. 

Jim Mone/Associated Press

Bridgewater's struggles this week come after a so-so preseason debut against the Raiders on Aug. 8. He finished 6-of-13 for 49 yards, showing a few glimpses of greatness alongside some struggles and two sacks—one of which was a strip-sack that went the other way.

After the Louisville rookie attributed his problems to "overthinking," Zimmer elaborated on how Bridgewater can make strides, per Craig.

He's got so much going on in his mind right now that I just want him to play....That's what I told him (Wednesday), and that's what I'm going to tell him before the ballgame. Just go play. You've been doing this since you were 5 years old. Go play and have some fun. Throw the ball in there. If you make a mistake, we'll fix it and go on.

Of course, a main reason why Bridgewater is losing ground in the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback race has nothing to do with himself.

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Cassel has always led the QB race in Minnesota, and it's safe to say the organization gave him that recent two-year, $10 million contract expecting him to start this season.

He's showing no signs to force Zimmer to choose otherwise so far, as Minnesota's 100.3 KFAN noted:

Many expected time to be a big factor in Bridgewater's success in the league, and it's looking increasingly likely that the Vikings will roll with Cassel and keep their rookie on the bench to start out.

But despite all of his struggles and an iffy debut, we're still only a week into the preseason, and he'll have plenty more chances to prove himself. 

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The Vikes host the Cardinals on Saturday, and the Star-Tribune's Matt Vensel reported Cassel could play the entire first half. That could open up Bridgewater for the second half against second and third units, and a strong outing would certainly not go unnoticed.

With that said, there's nothing to suggest that Cassel won't continue impressing, and the gap between the two may be too large to overcome. But the Vikings didn't spend a first-round pick on a quarterback to sit him all year, and making serious strides will eventually force the coaches to unleash him. 

But right now, doubt lies in Zimmer and company as they await said improvement, per USA Today's Tom Pelissero:

Starting on Week 1 might be a lost cause for Bridgewater. But by finishing the preseason strong, he can distance himself as the No. 2 guy over Christian Ponder and make the coaches at least ponder giving him some reps. 

Patience will be high on Teddy Bridgewater among Vikings fans, but his improvement must come sooner rather than later for him to get any valuable playing time in 2014. 

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