Saturday, June 21, 2014

Training Camp Position Preview: Quarterbacks

Daniel House analyzes the Vikings quarterback situation and tells you what it will take for Teddy Bridgewater to be the starter when the Vikings open the season in St. Louis. 

Updated: June 21st, 2014 9:20pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings haven't had a stable quarterback situation since Fran Tarkenton was the leader back in 1978. I guess you could say they had some 'one-year wonders' in-between, but a franchise gunslinger hasn't happened for 36 years. Gas was 65 cents a gallon, Jimmy Carter was the President, and the Minnesota Vikings were NFC Central Division champs. That puts in perspective how long the state of Minnesota has waited to find a franchise quarterback. The Vikings have had so many different quarterbacks combinations, it is hard to keep track of them all.

In 2014, it appears there may be some daylight rising on the horizons of Minnesota. As the Vikings prepare to enter Mankato, they have a solid combination of stability, but a bright outlook for the future, as well. The coaching staff has two directions they can head at this position, one of which, will likely have huge ramifications for the success of the 2014 season.

Now it's time to analyze each quarterback on the Vikings roster. I will continue this series and will take a look at every position on the roster, leading up to the start of training camp on July 24th.

Matt Cassel: Cassel won't blow you away with his passing abilities, but he is a serviceable option for a team yearning for a quarterback to help transition into a new era at the position. Despite two absolute heinous outings against Carolina and Cincinnati last year, the Vikings offense was rather balanced and respectable under Cassel. He developed a solid comradery with Greg Jennings and the wide receiver was most productive with Cassel throwing him the ball. At the age of 33, Caseel is obviously not the long term answer to the equation, but he can at least stabilize the functionality of the Vikings as they wait for Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel struggles to throw the ball vertically down the seam, but he takes chances that sometimes pay off. He was highly productive in past offensive systems that weren't nearly as sophisticated as Norv Turner's. This leaves room for optimism that he could make a leap he has never made before when he is under elite instruction. He will enter camp number one of the depth chart and it appears it will be his job to lose. If he shows any problems delivering the ball in the offensive drills at training camp, he could be ousted for the rookie, but if Norv Turner sticks to previous trends, this seems highly unlikely. Turner has never started a rookie quarterback in his 30 years of coaching in the league. He won't be afraid to buck this trend, but it realistically seems the Vikings will take the most logical approach when they make their decision.

Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater was drafted with the future in mind, but if he dazzles in camp, could he challenge Matt Cassel for the starting reigns? Mike Zimmer has said he has no problem starting a rookie quarterback if he can provide the team the best chance to win. We can't get ahead of ourselves, but Bridgewater has the athletic ability to do so. The sense we are receiving is that Bridgewater is picking up the playbook at a very quick pace, which definitely benefits his chances. This is a new offense for all the quarterbacks and no passer has had experience in the system, so Bridgewater isn't trying to make up ground to other players at his position. There is no doubt that Teddy is a hard worker and according to reports from mini-camp, he is already establishing himself as the potential leader of this team. He has the more natural talent and intangibles between the other two quarterbacks, but the coaching staff will ultimately choose the quarterback that will give the team the best chance to win. Norv Turner won't place a rookie quarterback who isn't ready into his offensive system. It just doesn't work that way. If he feels Teddy has a grasp of what he needs to do, while making the throws necessary to be successful, Bridgewater will see the starting duties. Bridgewater has no pressure to start before he is ready, but deep down his competitive edge could be enough to take him to the top of this quarterback race.

Christian Ponder: Well, where do I start with Christian Ponder? We have traveled down this road too many times since Ponder was drafted in 2011. Vikings fans have taken a long ride on the rough waters and tributaries #7 has led them through during his time in Minnesota. Not one person wanted him to fail, but it is time to face the fact that Christian Ponder was a bust. Just swallow the pill and hope a little dose of Teddy Bridgewater can take the stomach pains away. This probably is the best remedy to stop the flu-like symptoms Vikings fans have been feeling for the last three years. Mike Zimmer hasn't closed the door on Ponder having a chance at the job, but anyone with any sense of the Vikings quarterback situation can read between the lines. Christian Ponder will never start another game for the Minnesota Vikings organization. Unless a zombie apocalypse strikes the Winter Park facility and both Cassel and Bridgewater go down, Ponder will not see the field. Could he be shopped before the season begins? It isn't likely, especially with the amount of money Ponder has remaining on his contract. If a team suffered an injury at the position and were in desperate need of a serviceable quarterback, the Vikings phone could ring, but this seems highly unlikely. With all of this said, if Mike Zimmer believes Christian Ponder is the best quarterback when the coaches evaluate the whole scope of the situation, I will respect the decision. If this happens though, I will eat my left and right shoe during a live broadcast on a local television station.

Who wins the job?

It appears Matt Cassel is likely the leader of the pack at this time, but as I explained, this could change in the blink of an eye. If you were to ask who I believe will start when the Vikings take the field in St. Louis in September, I lean towards Teddy Bridgewater. He has the charisma and natural talent to win the job and with his driven approach, he will have the playbook mastered. This all will be decided in the humid Mankato air and I will be ready to watch this battle more than any on this roster.

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