Sunday, May 18, 2014

Teddy Bridgewater can start for the Vikings

Daniel House analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of Teddy Bridgewater's passing game and explains why he should be the starter for the Vikings in week one. 

The Vikings selected Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Since the pick, Bridgewater has exploded to 4th in jersey sales among rookies and the energy across Minnesota has grown. He took the field as a Minnesota Viking for the first time during rookie mini-camp on Thursday. Bridgewater took command of the group, understood the playbook, and more importantly, made the throws down the field.

Coaches are not holding back and are extremely impressed with the quick progress the Louisville quarterback has made.

"It's not like, 'Hey, I'm throwing an out now,' " Zimmer explained. "He would say the whole formation, the whole play, what it's on and go from there, just repeat it as he goes. That was impressive."

Teddy Bridgewater was once a consensus top-pick in the 2014 draft, until his pro-day caused teams to  shy away from him. He indicated that the struggles were based upon not wearing gloves during the throwing session. According to Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, he performed at a phenomenal level during the team workout and he had no indications Bridgwater couldn't make the necessary strides in the NFL. Now he can say this, and act like Bridgewater will start, but in reality, he would be breaking a trend in his philosophy on rookie quarterbacks. No rookie quarterback has ever started for Norv Turner during his NFL coaching tenure. This doesn't mean that Bridgewater couldn't start for the Vikings, especially with the other group of quarterbacks that are currently on the roster, but Norv Turner's past needs to be factored into the equation.

Teddy Bridgwater was drafted into one of the best organizations he could have possibly landed in this draft. The Vikings have a suitable quarterback with Matt Cassel who could start in the event Bridgewater isn't quite ready to take the step as a starter in the league. This isn't to say if Cassel struggled we wouldn't see Teddy later in the year, but he would have more time to learn as a quarterback in this scenario. Furthermore, Bridgewater has the opportunity to work with one of the greatest offensive coordinators in the history of the NFL. Turner has developed some of the greatest quarterbacks in the league, while being successful as a team in the process.

“Teddy makes a lot of plays when things don’t go exactly the way they are drawn up,” Turner said. “He does a great job when things break down. It’s not the circus of Manziel, but he still finds a way to make a play. You’d better have a little of that nowadays.”

If Norv Turner feels Teddy Bridgewater can win in this league and be the leader necessary to win games, you have to feel good about the odds of success that will follow.

I took some time to evaluate Teddy Bridgewater over the last week and will provide some areas of strength weakness in the game of the Vikings new quarterback.

Laser Precise Accuracy 

Teddy Bridgewater was easily the most accurate quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft class. He throws with nice touch in tight spaces and his arm velocity allows him to place balls in areas where only the receiver can make the play. ESPN Stats and Info recently performed a study using standardized completion percentage as the basis of argument.

"Standardized completion percentage is very similar to effective field goal percentage in basketball because it accounts for the distance of a quarterback's passes, just as effective field goal percentage accounts for both 2-pointers and 3-pointers. So a player like Bridgewater receives credit for his short passes, but the amount of credit that he receives depends on how often a standard quarterback would throw that short. What this does is give credit to players making more difficult throws at a higher completion percentage, not just increasing their overall completion percentage with short throws."

If you analyze the standardized completion percentage of quarterbacks currently in the league, Teddy Bridgewater's current rate fits near the top of the list.

Quarterbacks drafted in 2012 and 2013
(from AQ conferences)

PlayersStandardized completion percentageNFL QBR
Standardized completion percentage accounts for air yards, drops and throwaways; stats for final college season.
Russell Wilson81.7%65.8
Robert Griffin III79.9%57.5
Brandon Weeden75.5%26.2
Andrew Luck75.2%63.8
Nick Foles73.5%57.8
Ryan Tannehill71.5%47.8
Brock Osweiler71.5%NA
Sean Renfree71.4%NA
EJ Manuel70.9%42.3
Kirk Cousins69.2%39.1
Geno Smith69.1%35.9
Mike Glennon68.8%45.6
Landry Jones68.4%NA
Ryan Nassib67.9%NA
Matt Barkley67.2%19.5
Tyler Wilson66.9%NA
B.J. Daniels65.1%NA

Teddy Bridgewater currently holds a percentage of 78.3%, which fits perfectly behind Russell Wilson and RG3. Bridgewater held the top spot for standardized completion percentage among the 2014 NFL Draft quarterbacks. Johnny Manziel finished a close second with a 76.2% standardized completion percentage. As a whole, Teddy Bridgewater is a capable pocket passer with excellent precision passing abilities, making him one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in this class.

Mr. Cool

Arguably one of most impressive statistics from Bridgewater is his ability to stay cool under pressure.  Per ESPN Stats & Info, Bridgewater completed 53.5 % of his throws under duress in 2013, with a 7-1 ratio; he also completed 70.1% of his attempts against pass rushes of five blitzers or more. The Vikings face top tier pressure in the NFC North every week and need a quarterback that doesn't display "happy-feet" at the first sign of pressure.

“We did a very analytical study on all of these quarterbacks. One of the things that really stuck out to us of all the quarterbacks is he was the best against the blitz. So he’s very cool and calm under pressure," GM Rick Spielman explained.

All quarterbacks who face pressure in this league are able to make quick decisions and Bridgewater's amazing statistics against the blitz, display his abilities as a precise pocket passer.

Cold-Blooded in the 4th Quarter

When tied or trailing by 7 or less in the 4th quarter during 2013, Bridgewater completed 75.0% of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 126.9. The Vikings need a quarterback who can make plays when the team needs a score late in the game. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has stressed that he is looking for a quarterback who can make plays late in the game and lead the team to victory. Bridgewater definitely has a pedigree in this area and is calm during pressure as I explained during the blitz statistic above. If Bridgewater is provided time to make a decision, he can make an athletic play down the field with his arm.

On the Move

Not only can Teddy Bridgewater make throws inside the pocket, but he is extremely functional outside the pocket. His throwing mechanics are very solid and he has been able to throw well, while rolling to his left or right with absolute ease. When he hits the outside of the pocket, he has an impressive ability to throw accurately with superior velocity into tight spaces. His ability to roll either direction in an offense allows him the chance to be effective in the play-action passing game.

Wavering Pocket Habits 

Bridgewater has been solid against pressure, which has been discussed early, but his pocket habits have a tendency to waver. He has developed a spin-move which has gotten him into trouble on multiple occasions, leading to sacks and interceptions. This spin-move has helped him and led to many big throws down the field, but he needs to learn how this move won't work in the NFL. He is a solid pocket passer and doesn't need to force things by doing too much. This all will come with work in the classroom and in practice against exotic blitzes and defensive looks. As a whole, Bridgewater needs to be more decisive at times, which is an easy fix.

The Consensus

Teddy Bridgewater is easily one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks to enter the league this year. He has superior footwork and accuracy, the ability to throw the ball with touch, and a on handle the pressures that are thrown at him. Not many rookie quarterbacks can be assessed like this at the end of their rookie season in the NFL, which is a firm example of how Teddy Bridgewater is ready to start for the Minnesota Vikings. He is ahead of the curve and with work in the classroom in the form of learning the playbook, the Vikings may have found the quarterback they have been yearning for.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Bridgewater roundup :)
    I'm really excited about next season!