Breaking Down Teddy Bridgewater's Vikings Preseason Debut

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IAugust 9, 2014

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The debut of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater against the Oakland Raiders Friday night was a typical rookie blend of good and bad, with a few strong throws and some fits of trepidation and indecision.

It was neither heroic nor disastrous, and it should set the stage for what the Vikings need to see Bridgewater improve on if he wants to seriously contend for the starting job to open the regular season. 

The 32nd overall pick led five drives, three of which finished in punts and two in field-goal attempts. The Vikings scored three total points on Bridgewater drives. He completed six of 13 passes for 49 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions and took two official sacks and fumbled once. His passer rating finished at 56.2. 

Here's a complete breakdown of Bridgewater's 18 passing snaps against the Raiders: 

Pass Snap 1: Complete to Greg Jennings, 21 yards. Penalty, offense. 

NFL Preseason Live

This was Bridgewater's best throw of the night, and it ended up counting for nothing. He sold the play action, sprinted to his right off the roll-out and delivered a frozen rope to Jennings along the sideline. Charles Woodson, who was in coverage, didn't have a sniff of the ball. Jennings made the catch for 21 yards. This was the full package of athleticism and accuracy that had many so high on Bridgewater at Louisville. An illegal formation penalty canceled the gain. 

Pass Snap 2: Incomplete to Cordarrelle Patterson. Penalty, offense. 

Norv Turner dialed up another play action a play later, though this was a broken screen play. Bridgewater dealt with a free rusher before he even finished his drop. However, he did well to plant his foot, escape the pressure to his left and then throw the football away. Clever in evading the rush, smart in living for another day. A penalty for ineligible man downfield is declined. 

Pass Snap 3: Incomplete to Jerome Simpson. Penalty, defense.

On 3rd-and-3, Oakland brought a stunted blitz to Bridgewater's right. Rushers broke free, but Bridgewater stayed mostly calm in the pocket (his feet got a little happy) and threw incomplete underneath. It was the right decision given the circumstances of the blitz. The Vikings moved the chains thanks to a coverage penalty on the Raiders defense. 

Pass Snap 4: Complete to Patterson, 13 yards.

Minnesota shifted to an empty look with five receivers. The Raiders zone coverage was beat by Patterson, who ran a shallow cross from the left to right of the formation. Bridgewater made an easy throw to the middle of the field, letting Patterson rumble 13 yards for a first down. 

Pass Snap 5: Sacked for minus-nine yards. Fumble, recovered by Matt Kalil. 

NFL Preseason Live

Probably Bridgewater's worst snap of the night. The Vikings spread the field and sent five receivers out into routes. Oakland responded with a four-man rush that was blocked well initially. At the top of his drop, this was what the pocket and field looked like to Bridgewater:

NFL Preseason Live

Everything broke down when the interior rusher finally beat his block and Bridgewater panicked. His spin out of the pocket was met by the edge-rusher, who was otherwise blocked fine by Kalil. Instead of a spin, Bridgewater should have stepped up and away from this pressure, especially with all the green to his left. He could have bought time and let his receivers find an opening, and he was lucky not to lose possession. 

Pass Snap 6: Incomplete to Adam Thielen. 

The Vikings went with a heavy set to sell run, in the hopes of making the backside slant an easy pitch-and-catch. The Raiders covered the play well. Bridgewater made the throw but the coverage was tight and Thielen couldn't make the reception. 

Pass Snap 7: Incomplete to Simpson. 

This was another bad snap for Bridgewater. Turner sent him on another play action bootleg to the right. But instead of throwing an accurate pass with good placement, Bridgewater let his attempt come too far inside. It was almost intercepted. This throw needed to be anticipated, thrown earlier and to the boundary. Bridgewater's attempt was one you see picked off most Sundays. 

Pass Snap 8: Sacked for minus-four yards. 

While the spin outside was the wrong call a few plays earlier, it worked here on 3rd-and-long. The Raiders engineered a free blitzer coming right into Bridgewater's face, but he spun away from the pressure and bought time outside the pocket. The one negative here: Instead of throwing the football away, Bridgewater ran out of bounds and took a four-yard loss. 

Pass Snap 9: Complete to Rhett Ellison, five yards. 

NFL Preseason Live

Turner will like the way Bridgewater worked through his reads here. The Raiders brought an extra blitzer but Bridgewater calmly looked right, saw the slant covered by the zone and worked his way back to the left, where he found Ellison open for a short gain. It's the little things. A rookie easily could have forced the football to the slant with pressure bearing down. That decision likely would have resulted in a turnover. A five-yard gain here was a big win. 

Pass Snap 10: Sacked for minus-seven yards. Penalty, defense.

On third down, Oakland's five-man rush beat Minnesota's second-team offensive line. Still, you would have liked Bridgewater to have made a quicker decision. He was too late to escape the pocket, and he didn't see his dump-off option to his left. The replay doesn't give a good indication of what Bridgewater was looking at downfield. A defensive holding penalty negated the sack and gave Minnesota a first down. 

Pass Snap 11: Complete to Simpson, six yards. 

A quick three-step drop and the football was out, this time on the money to Simpson near the right sideline. The throw was accurate and on time, and it resulted in a first down. 

Pass Snap 12: Incomplete to Allen Reisner. 

On 3rd-and-11, Bridgewater took the safe option and didn't force anything down the field. Reisner ran a good route underneath but dropped the pass. It's unlikely a catch would have resulted in a first down. 

Pass Snap 13: Incomplete to Jerick McKinnon.

With under a minute to go in the half, the Vikings attempted to gain some field position by setting up a screen. It looked somewhat promising in its early development, but Bridgewater's short throw was deflected and fell incomplete. 

Pass Snap 14: Incomplete to Jarius Wright. 

Strong pocket presence here from Bridgewater. He felt the edge-rusher coming off the right side and stepped up into the pocket to deliver the throw. However, he didn't completely reset his feet and you see his throw skip to the receiver. He doesn't have the natural arm strength to zip throws without the benefit of his feet. He'll need to work on intermediate throws after he is moved from the spot. 

Pass Snap 15: Complete to Mike Higgins, 10 yards. 

Once again, Bridgewater escaped pressure (which actually got a hand on him this time) and found Higgins on a short dump off. Normally, this would be a minimal gain on third down and the punting team would come on. However, Higgins weaved his way for 10 yards and the drive continued. 

Pass Snap 16: Complete to Joe Banyard, six yards.  

A deep drop-off play action netted nothing down the field (from what we can see on the television angle), so Bridgewater took the simple completion underneath to the running back. Six yards on first down is sufficient. It's difficult to accurately grade the play without knowing what Bridgewater saw in the intermediate to deep areas. 

Pass Snap 17: Complete to Rodney Smith, nine yards. 

One of Bridgewater's better plays of the night. Off a three-step drop, the rookie slung the football accurately to the opposite hash for nine yards. The throw was well-timed and well-placed. 

Pass Snap 18: Incomplete to Banyard. 

NFL Preseason Live

This is one play Bridgewater would like to have back. On a 2nd-and-short play, he rolled to his right and into space. But instead of taking off and picking up at least eight to 10 yards, Bridgewater attempted to dump it off to his running back. It was well-covered and the throw fell harmlessly incomplete. With so much field in front of him, Bridgewater should have taken off. 


The boxscore will say Bridgewater had a flat debut, and maybe that's accurate overall. But he made some commendable throws, while also showing off his athleticism in escaping the rush and his ability to get the Vikings offense in and out of the huddle. Also, his one glaring mistake (strip-sack) didn't end up taking points off the board. 

Bridgewater certainly didn't gain any ground on Matt Cassel in the quarterback competition; in fact, he probably lost significant ground. But he also wasn't a disaster, and it's likely Turner and his offensive staff will come away from this debut with an idea of how to get Bridgewater better prepared for Week 2 of the preseason. 

As the game slows down and the decision-making comes quicker, Bridgewater's positive attributes—accuracy, pocket presence and composure—should shine more brightly than some of the negatives seen Friday night. 

And let's not forget, Bridgewater had just one series with the first-team offense. Also, Turner rarely let his rookie quarterback settle into a rhythm, calling a mostly run-heavy game once Cassel left the contest. This was a simple game plan designed to get a first-year player introduced to the NFL game. 

Remember, this is a process. Transitioning from college to the pro game takes an overhaul of a quarterback's internal clock and an adjustment to the speed of the NFL. These changes take time. 

Bridgewater didn't set the world alight with his debut, but the Vikings have plenty to work with in their future franchise quarterback. 

Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report. 

Follow @zachkruse2


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