Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grading the Roster: Quarterbacks

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Daniel House analyzes the performance of the Vikings' quarterbacks and tells you why this is the first offseason in decades the organization can feel solidified at this position. 

Updated: January 11th, 2015 11:09am 

By: Daniel House

I will be analyzing every position group on the Vikings roster over the course of the next few weeks.

The words "bright future"and quarterback haven't been associated with the Minnesota Vikings for decades. The selection of Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft has helped solidify the Vikings quarterback position and provides stability heading into the offseason.

*Note: In order to receive, a grade, the player must have been active for a least six games during the 
2014 season.*


Teddy Bridgewater

Grade: A-

Analysis: The Vikings didn't really expect Teddy Bridgewater to play this season, especially after Matt Cassel was re-signed in free agency. Nonetheless, Cassel was hurt by week three and Bridgewater was thrust into the starting role for the majority of the 2014 campaign. He showed growing pains early in the process, but by the final five games of the season, Bridgewater was proving he was going to be a building block for the future. He managed to finish third all-time among rookie quarterbacks with a 64.4% completion percentage. Not to mention, he completed almost 60% of his passes when he was under pressure. Early in the season, he struggled to connect on passes over 20 yards down the field and he admittedly expressed that he was trying do too much during the early stages of his rookie season. He started to improve in this area at the end of the season and Pro Football Focus had his accuracy percentage on passes traveling 20 yards or more at 10th-best in the NFL at 46.3%.

By the final five games of the season, his accuracy on down field throws improved and he started to really show he was franchise quarterback material. Over the final five games of the season, he had the second-highest quarterback rating and his QBR of 103.0 over the season's final five weeks trailed only Tony Romo (117.1). He also finished second to Romo in the Pro Football Focus QB rating formula (99.6 for Romo, 97.5 for Bridgewater). Along with that, he was able to improve his decision-making, specifically when he needed to step into the pocket and pick up yardage with his feet. His accuracy, poise, and ability to run this offense with a limited amount of playmakers made his rookie season considerably more impressive. What's more, Bridgewater was throwing passes to a wide receiver who joined the team in late October. It is hard to imagine the type of production Bridgewater can exert when he is paired with more playmakers in the offseason, through the draft and free agency. One thing is certain, the Vikings are entering the offseason with no question marks surrounding the quarterback position. This may be the first time the Vikings organization can say this since the early days of Fran Tarkenton.

Projected 2015 Status: Starting Quarterback

Matt Cassel

Grade: N/A

Analysis: After winning the starting job out of training camp, Matt Cassel was holding the reigns to the quarterback position for the first three weeks of the season. That is until he was injured while scrambling outside the pocket in a week three matchup with the New Orleans Saints. He suffered a broken bone in his foot and was placed on injured reserve. In the early portion of the season, he tossed four interceptions against New England, but the coaches were very confident in his veteran leadership. Cassel is a candidate to have his contract restructured, especially considering Teddy Bridgewater is the starter of the future. He will turn 33 years old this offseason and in order to remain in Minnesota, he will need to trim a portion of his 2-year, $10 million deal he signed last offseason.

Projected 2015 Status: Restructures his deal and is the backup quarterback

Christian Ponder

Grade: N/A

Analysis: With the season over, the Christian Ponder era has triumphantly concluded in Minnesota. Ponder was selected with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft and after spending part of two seasons in the starting role, the Vikings decided to move in opposite directions. Ponder spent this season as the third-string quarterback until Matt Cassel was injured and he was named the backup behind Teddy Bridgewater. Ponder started a week five matchup at Lambeau Field against the Packers and he officially put the stamp on his exit. He completed just 22-of-44 passes for 222 yards, two interceptions, and a touchdown run. The Vikings declined Ponder's fifth-year option and are parting ways at the end of the season. Ponder was a consummate professional during his time with the Vikings, but he just couldn't get the job done on the field.

Projected 2015 Status: Hitting free agency

Pat Devlin

Analysis: Pat Devlin signed at the midway point of the season to take Chandler Harnish's place on the practice squad, after Harnish suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury. Devlin went undrafted in 2011 and spent four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, before signing with the Vikings this season. He has the chance to compete for the Vikings third-string quarterback job, but with uncertainty surrounding the future of Matt Cassel, it is very difficult to project whether Devlin will be on the training camp roster in July.

Projected 2015 Status: Training Camp Competition/Potential Third-String QB

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