If there still truly is a quarterback controversy in Minnesota between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater, neither player gave much leeway in their performances against the Arizona Cardinals in Saturday night's preseason game.
The veteran Cassel got the start as expected and proved for the second straight preseason game that the Vikings may not have a tough decision on their hands under center after all. He played the entire first half, finishing 12-of-16 through the air for 153 yards and a touchdown pass.
But consistent play—especially in the preseason—is expected from the 32-year-old. What Vikings enthusiasts really wanted to see was the rookie, and he dazzled.
Bridgewater got all of the quarterback reps in the second half, going an efficient 16-of-20 for 177 yards and two scores.
He connected with tight end Allen Reisner for a three-yard touchdown to put the Vikings ahead in the fourth quarter, and he converted the two-point conversion through the air as well. He put Minnesota in front for good with 18 seconds left on a two-yard score to Rodney Smith.
According to Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Master Tesfatsion, he should have had three:
Thielen drops nice ball from Bridgewater. Should've been a TD. #Vikings— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterStrib) August 17, 2014
The rookie out of Louisville has endured an up-and-down training camp, followed by an up-and-down preseason debut, followed by Mark Craig's Star-Tribune report that stated Bridgewater admitted he needs to "stop overthinking."
Needless to say, his impressive performance Saturday was much-needed.
The Star-Tribune's Matt Vensel noticed improvements from Bridgewater that went beyond the box score:
Teddy Bridgewater looks much better tonight. His poise is back and he has made a couple of accurate throws from awkward positions. #Vikings— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 17, 2014
Even with the two quarterbacks gunning it out for the starting job, Bridgewater and Cassel haven't stopped working with each other in between drives, as VikingUpdate.com notes:
Matt Cassel sitting with Teddy Bridgewater going over photos on the tablet after Teddy's first drive. #Vikings— VikingUpdate.com (@VikingUpdate) August 17, 2014
Bridgewater looked as confident as he has looked at any point in his NFL career on Saturday, but Fox Sports' P. Schrager reminded fans why their hopes should be tempered:
Teddy Bridgewater looks tremendous tonight. Need to remind myself it's against the Cardinals' 2nd and 3rd team defense.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) August 17, 2014
Not to be forgotten in Saturday's game is the absence of Christian Ponder. The Vikings opted to go with Bridgewater late in the fourth instead of inserting Ponder for garbage time.
KSTP.com's Chris Long sees an unfortunate notice in Ponder's future:
Teddy Bridgewater back in for #Vikings drive with 4 to go. So, uh, Christian Ponder -- please pick up the white courtesy phone.— Chris Long (@jclong) August 17, 2014
The emergence of the Vikings first-round pick was promising to see for any Minnesota loyalist, but anyone watching closely couldn't deny the obvious—Cassel is the man for 2014.
At least, that's what NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal thought:
Cassel wrapped up Vikings starting job tonight.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 17, 2014
The thought of Bridgewater starting under center for Minnesota can make any fantasy owner smile, but the reality is that day is likely to come later rather than sooner.
For now, Cassel is the only fantasy-relevant quarterback in Minnesota, with him still firmly holding the starting job. Even then, it's hard to argue that the Vikings' run-heavy attack would bode well for Cassel's numbers.
Who should start Week 1 for Minnesota?
Should the Vikings' passing attack open up with Cordarrelle Patterson's speed and Greg Jennings' experience, Cassel might be worthy of a bench spot and the occasional start. But if that's the case, your quarterback situation might not be so hot.
Bridgewater's mobility would make him a better fantasy option should he start but only focus on Cassel in fantasy until the rookie wins the job outright.