Film Room: Teddy Bridgewater

Film Room: Teddy Bridgewater
Film Room: Teddy Bridgewater
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Cian Fahey

Tom Brady began this season in historic fashion. He threw 20 touchdowns and just one interception over the first seven games of the season, completing 69 percent of his passes, and clearing the 74 percent mark three times. Only once in those seven games did Brady's yards per pass attempt drop below 7.0, and that was in a game where he threw the ball 54 times for 355 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions against the New York Jets' celebrated defense. He also ran for a touchdown in that game. For a long time, Brady was the clear favorite for the MVP because of his statistical output and the New England Patriots' record as a team.

Over the past few weeks, things have changed.

Injuries all around Brady have completely altered what he can do with his offense. The loss of Nate Solder has severely disrupted the comfort of his offensive line. The loss of Dion Lewis has made the running back position more rigid. The loss of Julian Edelman has taken away the team's No. 1 wide receiver. Rob Gronkowski, the real top receiver, left the Denver Broncos game two weeks ago and didn't play during the surprising loss to the Philadelphia Eagles this past week.

Without all of those key pieces around him, Brady hasn't completed more than 55 percent of his passes over his past three games, and his yards per pass in those three contests fell from 7.1 to 6.7 to 5.6. He has still thrown plenty of touchdown passes, nine over the past four games, but he has also been intercepted at a much higher rate. Five of Brady's six interceptions have come in the past five games, four in the past four, and two against the Eagles.

It takes a passer such as Brady or Aaron Rodgers to highlight the importance of a quarterback's supporting cast. Both players are very highly regarded and still considered to be playing close to their peaks, so they can transcend the idea that the quarterback alone should be able to carry the offense. Unfortunately, most quarterbacks don't get that same level of awareness. Most quarterbacks aren't treated to the nuance that comes with context. To take it one step further, most quarterbacks don't begin the season with the same level of surrounding talent and quality of coaching as the perceived best quarterbacks in the league.

One of those quarterbacks is second-year player Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater is the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback. The Vikings are 8-4, tied atop the NFC North alongside the Green Bay Packers. However, the shine of their season has recently been scraped away somewhat because of convincing defeats at the hands of the Packers and Seattle Seahawks. Even when the Vikings were consistently winning games, Bridgewater wasn't receiving much credit. The Vikings are a team that has built its success on the defensive side while crafting their offense around the talent of running back Adrian Peterson. That is an approach that has been taken because it fits the established philosophy of Norv Turner, but it has also been taken out of necessity.

A quarterback's statistical output is attributed to the individual, but it is more reflective of the whole unit. Bridgewater has some of the worst statistics for a quarterback this season, but the major reasons for his production have very little to do with his individual performance. He was entering the season with arguably the worst offensive line in the league, a line which then got worse when its two best players (center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt) were lost to injury. Because Bridgewater plays in a scheme that asks the quarterback to play under center and take deep drops, he can't mitigate the failures of his offensive line by consistently throwing to shorter routes. His receivers primarily run vertical routes -- and not particularly well. This is one of the least talented groups in the league, but it could be more productive in a better situation. The offensive line is so bad that teams don't need to rush more than three or four defenders to get quick pressure on the quarterback. This means Bridgewater is working under pressure all the time, but not getting the typical trade-off of space in coverage. His receivers are being tasked with finding space before their routes can fully develop against seven- and eight-man coverages. This is something that has been happening consistently all season long. It threatened to completely blow up in their faces at some point and it was no surprise that when the time came, it was the Seattle Seahawks on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

This was Bridgewater's first pass of the game. He was facing a third-and-3 after consecutive runs from Peterson. As they so often do, the Seahawks play coverage to rush only four defenders after the quarterback. Because it's third down, Bridgewater is in the shotgun. Turner decides to trust his offensive line, sending all five eligible receivers into routes. As can be seen in the above GIF, Bridgewater is reading the right side of the field as soon as he gets the ball. He initially looks to Mike Wallace, who is covered on a curl route in the slot, before turning his eyes to Peterson in the flat, who is also covered. Bridgewater cycled through those reads very quickly, but he still didn't have any more time to work with in the pocket. Michael Bennett had been left alone with the Vikings right guard, Michael Harris.

Harris is in his fourth year on an NFL roster, having previously played with the San Diego Chargers. He is a former undrafted offensive tackle who moved to guard after failing to be consistent on the outside. Against Michael Bennett in space on a one-on-one assignment, Harris has no chance. The Seahawks' defensive lineman had penetrated past his outside shoulder with one quick, decisive step to flush Bridgewater from his spot. Bridgewater did well to escape the initial pressure, but still didn't have an option to throw to downfield.

The quarterback looks for someone, but his short routes are all blanketed and his deeper routes haven't developed yet. Any pass Bridgewater makes in this situation is more likely to be intercepted than completed. The quarterback's eyes had stayed on the right side of the field, where Wallace didn't look to make a second movement to give his quarterback an option. As such, he was forced to try and scramble. Bridgewater evaded Bennett and then Frank Clark, but couldn't advance downfield because his own blocker got in his way. Clark was able to sack the quarterback at that point to force the Vikings off the field.

Sometimes quarterbacks fail to make plays, but sometimes there is no play to be made. In criticizing Bridgewater in this situation, you would need to suggest what he could or should have done. He had no options to get a first down past the 40-yard line. His best opportunity was to scramble, and that's what he tried to do.

These types of plays are supposed to be few and far between -- the types of plays that don't define a season because there are so few of them in the vast number of snaps a quarterback takes over 16 games. Unfortunately for Bridgewater, these types of plays aren't the exception. These types of plays are the foundation of the Vikings passing game.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

In the above play, focus on the quarterback's eyes. He cycles through his reads from the left side of the field to the right in an instant. Importantly, Bridgewater didn't miss any open options by doing his. He understood the coverage that he saw on the left side of the field and acted accordingly. This play came on second-and-11 when the Vikings motioned Peterson wide to the right to create a five-receiver alignment with one running back and two tight ends. As the above GIF shows, every single one of those eligible receivers ran a route, leaving the Vikings' five offensive linemen responsible for the Seahawks' pass rush. The Seahawks only rushed four again, but the quick pressure they created up the middle was matched by edge pressure to Matt Kalil's side of the field.

Bridgewater was flushed from the pocket before any of his receivers had a chance to get open once again.

This is the point of the play when Bridgewater is bumped by his own left guard, who is being rapidly driven back. Bridgewater's first read of the play was Stefon Diggs to the top of the screen. Diggs is marked with a "1," and so are the defenders covering him. His two curl routes were the next options over the middle of the field. Kyle Rudolph ("2") and Wallace ("3") are both comfortably covered by the underneath defenders. "4" is a tight end who has Kam Chancellor waiting for his route, and "5" is Peterson, who has run a lazy route towards Richard Sherman because he knows the ball is extremely unlikely to be thrown his way as a running back who is the fifth option on the field and working against the opposition's best corner.

In a clean pocket, Bridgewater would have had an opportunity to work back to the left side of the field and look for Diggs to come open as he worked through his slant route. Instead, the left side of the field is completely closed off by the pressure, and Bridgewater has to escape into the right flat to keep the play alive. He does that, but nobody gets open downfield so he is forced to simply run the ball out of bounds after gaining 2 yards.

The Vikings don't typically send all five receivers into routes because they understand that their line needs help in pass protection. More often than not, they will spend more time with seven- or eight-man protection schemes to try to give the routes of their receivers time to develop downfield. Even when the coaching staff completely turns the numbers advantage in its line's favor, they still prove to be incompetent all too often.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

In the above play, the Vikings keep seven players in to block by design, and the penetration they give up prevents Peterson from releasing into his route within the time of the play. The Seahawks again only rush four defenders after the quarterback, so the offense has two receivers running routes downfield against seven defenders in coverage. Needless to say, neither player is open before Bridgewater is sacked. What really makes this play amazing is that it isn't just one defender who gets to Bridgewater. Frank Clark and Cliff Avril come off each edge quickly. Clark is left alone with the left guard as Kalil allowed his focus to be drawn towards the second level and couldn't recover in time to be a factor in the play at all. Clark beat the left guard incredibly easily. He was only slowed for a moment when Peterson bounced off of him before moving further downfield.

[ad placeholder 3]

On the other side of the play, Avril easily gets past the tight end in his way at the line of scrimmage. He is met by a second tight end who comes across from the other side of the field, but Avril is already much closer to the quarterback than he should be. He uses his strength and balance to slip past the tight end and deliver a hit on Bridgewater's back as Clark is dragging him to the ground. The Vikings continued to try and use extra blockers to slow the Seahawks pass rush, but it didn't work.

Bridgewater has been sacked 34 times this year, fourth most in the league. He should lead the league in sacks, but he is elevating his offensive line by making throws under pressure and diagnosing coverages so quickly that he can get rid of the ball earlier than is designed. Often his passes are just incompletions, but they save yardage because his only other option is a sack or forcing the ball into coverages that would consistently lead to interceptions.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

This play comes on third-and-forever after multiple penalties put the Vikings around 40 yards away from a first down. The pass protection fails to pick up a stunt, meaning the defense gets a clean rusher in Bridgewater's face. He has to act quickly just to check the ball down with two defenders in his face.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Wallace gains 20-plus yards on this play. It was one of the most impressive plays of the day for the Vikings offense, but not for right tackle T.J. Clemmings. Avril beats Clemmings instantly and is closing on Bridgewater before the quarterback throws the ball early, leading Wallace to space, so he can avoid another sack.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Bennett again disrupts the pocket quickly on this play, this time forcing his way through the right shoulder of the center. Bennett's disruption forces Bridgewater to step up and away, where he is susceptible to another pass rusher coming from his right. Bridgewater has to work quickly and tightly just to throw the ball away in the direction of Matt Asiata.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

On this fourth-down play, the center is only able to hang off of Bennett as he comes around on a stunt to pressure Bridgewater up the middle. Bridgewater releases the ball towards Wallace earlier than he would have wanted to as Bennett arrives to pressure him.

(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)

Bennett threatened to sack Bridgewater four or five times in this game. He eventually got one in the second half as he overpowered Clemmings to shed his block and close on the quarterback before he could release the ball downfield.

[ad placeholder 4]

These plays aren't examples of Bridgewater holding the ball too long. There aren't many examples of Bridgewater holding the ball too long this season. There are examples of him holding the ball for a long time, but it's generally because there are no options open to him and he is trying to create plays either with his feet or as a passer. That's not to say Bridgewater has been flawless this season, but his issues largely remain confined to his ability to throw the ball deep down the field accurately.

Downfield throws to vertical routes were a major problem for the quarterback as a rookie, but he was more efficient throwing to horizontal routes such as deep crossers. Over the second half of that rookie season, the Vikings asked Bridgewater to carry the offense by playing from the shotgun and consistently throwing receivers open on short and intermediate routes. If they want to reignite their passing game this season, they will need to make a similar change in philosophy. Making that change will come with a trade-off for Peterson. The running back struggles to be effective working out of shotgun, so Jerick McKinnon and Asiata should become more prominent in the offense.


58 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2015, 7:31pm

#1 by theslothook // Dec 09, 2015 - 12:33pm

What cian said at the end dovetails with something ive argued with Will over. Namely, the 09 offense wasnt successful because defenses were trying to stop peterson. The pass first offense minny ran isn't one that plays to petersons strengths.

Points: 0

#3 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 1:53pm

I didn't say the 09 offense was successful because defenses were trying to stop Peterson. I said Favre had one of his best years at age 40 because defenses were prioritizing stopping Peterson. The two statements are not synonymous, and Favre himelf has agreed with the latter statement.

Points: 0

#36 by theslothook // Dec 10, 2015 - 3:08am

I get your point. I sort of just think passing offenses tend to operate by in large independently from the run game and that bias has come from years of watching the manning led colts.

He would audible to optimal run fronts and still watch his run game get stopped.

I also thought Favre was just unreal that year. Just really really good and I feel bad that his entire season gets written off by that NO game. In fact, I thought he played well in that game took an unholy amount of non-predictive events for Minny to lose. Its like NO saved every get out of jail free card for that game.

Points: 0

#38 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 8:29am

He outplayed Brees that day by the width of the Gulf of Mexico. Not even close. If the the Vikings dbs had not had their very Viking db-like proclivity for dropping easy ints, Brees would have had about 4 or 5 picks. Everybody focuses on, of course, Favre's pass at the nd of the game.

Points: 0

#40 by Sportszilla // Dec 10, 2015 - 11:14am

In the last gif, it's Brandon Mebane who overpowers the Vikings center before Bennett comes around the edge for the ascribe both actions to Bennett, and while he's really really good he's not quite THAT good.

Edit: I misread which gif you were referring to. My bad.

Points: 0

#2 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 1:52pm

Where Cian is wrong in his last statement is that he fails to account for the performance of the Minnesota defense when evaluating the Minnesota offense. When the Vikings defense performs poorly, it doesn't matter at all, really, who is playing running back for the Vikings. The Vikings offense, with these linemen and receivers, simply cannot function while trying to climb back from a 21 point deficit, against a defense with any talent whatsoever. It is literally almost impossible. If the Vikings defense performs well, then the value of handing off to Peterson 25-30 times jumps by a gigantic amount, relative to other offensive strategies.

Discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of Vikings offensive strategy, in a game where the Vikings defense plays poorly, due to injury or any other reason, is almost akin to a debate about how Robert E. Lee should have employed his armored divisions at Gettysburg.

Points: 0

#4 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 2:08pm

Even with the injuries to Loadholdt and Sullivan, it is professional malpractice for a team, which is trying to break in a young qb for the 5th straight year, to have blocking this bad. I can see drafting corners and pass rushers, to some extent (but even then I think they have taken it too far), but to be drafting receivers in the first three rounds, whether it be good ones like Rudolph, or bad ones like Patterson, or back ups for Peterson, before building reason to have confidence that you can block at an acceptable level, is just a tremendous error by Spielman.

Points: 0

#5 by jmaron // Dec 09, 2015 - 2:53pm

Since Peterson arrived in Minnesota the offence has been essentially the same offence every year with the exception of 2009. Remarkably the same.

2015 - 25th passing, 5th rushing Defence 17th (8-4)
2014 - 29th passing, 4th rushing Defence 23rd (7-9)
2013 - 23rd passing, 8th rushing Defence 27th (5-10-1)
2012 - 22nd passing, 6th rushing Defence 21st (10-6)
2011 - 28th passing, 5th rushing Defence 23rd (3-13)
2010 - 30th passing, 8th rushing Defence 12th (6-10)
2009 - 4th passing, 23rd rushing Defence 15th (12-4)
2008 - 24th passing, 21st rushing Defence 4th (10-6)
2007 - 23rd passing, 3rd rushing Defence 17th (8-8)

Three different coaching staffs. Same results. Except 2009 with Favre - 2010 with Favre was more of the same. I find it fascinating that all the staffs came up with virtually the same offensive results.

To Will's point - when the defence is decent the Vikings win more. But it's hardly been a roaring success. The 5 seasons where the defence is in the teens or better the Vikings have a .578 winning the 4 other seasons .397 record.

It strikes me as a strategy with a very low ceiling and considerable downside. NE in the same period has roughly the same average ranking in defence (NE avg 17th, Minn 18th) and they are one of the best teams every year. So you can say well how do you get Tom Brady, but what seems clear to me trying to win around a RB is a bad strategy, why go that route?

Points: 0

#7 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 3:36pm

Because drafting Adrian Peterson does not increase your likelihood of making the hideous evaluation errors of trading up to pick Tavaris Jackson at the bottom of the 2nd round, or using the 12th overall pick on Christian Ponder (!), a year before one the more rich qb draft classes, nor does failing to draft Peterson increase your chance of drafting Tom Brady in the 6th round. What you are describing is the considerable downside of havng crappy quarterbacking for 6 plus seasons (Favre was an inanimate carbon rod in 2010) , good quarterbacking for 1 season, and a glimmer of potentially good quarterbacking for 1-plus season, with that glimmer attached to some of the most hideous o-line play conceived by humans. That downside was not the by-product of having Peterson on the roster, unless you want to say they could have drafted Cam Newton or Andrew Luck, by losing more games in the seasons before they became available.

For the life of me, I dont understand why people think that having Adrian Peterson on the roster makes it more likely that a GM will make bad choices in drafting a qb.

Points: 0

#10 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:31pm

There is at least one obvious counter point to "great RB doesn't help".

Just look at San Diego, who had a great RB and then still drafted and developed well afterward. They've only made the playoffs once since LdT retired (although twice since he lost effectiveness).

Or look at Atlanta. Do good QBs not help you win because they have no above average players except Ryan and Jones?

Points: 0

#20 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 6:46pm

I'll note again that the primary difference between the 7.8 wins a year that the Lions won with 10 years of Barry Sanders, and the 4.something wins a year they had in the ten years after Barry Sanders, may have been Barry Sanders.

Points: 0

#13 by jmaron // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:35pm

that is true - having Peterson has nothing to do with drafting Jackson and Ponder, but it does mean you've spent $15 on a rb this year. I suspect that money would be better spent on some players that would improve the passing game. Denis Green had a good offence almost every single year with mostly retreads at QB. You can build a decent passing offence without Tom Brady.

I don't think there is much evidence that having Peterson on your team helps your offence much. Particularly if you have to pay him 15 million a year.

Points: 0

#19 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 6:36pm

If this had been a good year to obtain a terrific o-limeman or linemen in free agency, then yes, the money would have been better spent there. It wasn't. Next year, it might be. Dennis Green's castoffs included the following...

A HOFer stil throwing the ball very effectively, and who did so more than 1 year.

A former league MVP who had another MVP season, paired with two HOF receivers, a multi-probowl running back, and a terrific offensive line.

A guy who was talented enough to win a league MVP elsewere, after he had several years of experience.

A guy who had a long productive career after leaving Minnesota, incuding being a starting, productive, qb for a Super Bowl winner.

I'll note that Green's offenses always had good offensive lines featuring HOFers, sometimes more than one.

The current team has, by DVOA, the 17th best offense in the league. With a 2nd year qb, a bad receiving corps overall, and the worst collection of blockers the franchise has had since they were a 1st year expansion team in 1961. If you don't think Peterson is helping that offense, I don't know what you are watching.

(edit) I really want to re-emphasize the difference between "castoffs" comprised of a very effective Warren Moon for more than one season, Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson, a young Rich Gannon, and old Jim McMahon for a handful of games, compared to the parade of misery that is Tavaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Great Brett Favre for 16 games, inanimate carbon rod Brett Favre, Joe Webb (!), broken down Donovan McNabb, The Ponderous One, Matty SandCassell, and now, please let it be real, glimmer of hope, Teddy Bridgewater. After Great Brett Favre, the o-line was never reliably good again, and now the o-line is just too horrid for words.

Saying Peterson didn't help that bunch become part of a good offense for more than one year is almost like saying my dog doesn't mix a good martini.

Points: 0

#22 by jmaron // Dec 09, 2015 - 8:53pm

The fact is Denis Green took QBs no one considered valuable at the time and made them very productive. Warren Moon was obtained for a 3rd and the 4th rounder. Randall Cunningham was talked out of retirement to be a backup. Brad Johnson was a 9th round pick. Jeff George as a QB nobody wanted. Rich Gannon was 27 years old when he played for Denis Green, and he was traded away for a conditional draft pick and spent 4 more years as a backup before he finally got a chance to start again.

The point is at the time those QB were acquired, they had no more value than Gus Frerotte, Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre had when they were acquired. It was Green's ability to create an effective offence with just about any QB.

As for what I see when I watch the Viking's offence with Peterson? I see an offence that is boom and bust, or more accurately lots of bust and the odd boom. I actually like it when I see McKinnon in the game. Not only this year, last year as well. The offence seems less predictable. They can actually use the shotgun on running downs. I think Peterson is an exceptional runner, but he needs the offence structured in such a way the team becomes very one dimensional and predictable.

Stats wise McKinnon's DVOA rushing is 20.4 vs Peterson's 2.2...which isn't a fair comparison in that Peterson has 10 times the carries, but McKinnon also had an 11.1 DVOA last year while Asiata was 1.0 and Peterson was negative 1 in his single game.

I have no idea is the team passing DVOA is better with one RB vs the other being in the game. They both have horrendous receiving stats.

I don't think there is any way to prove this with stats, I go back and forth about Peterson being a negative or a positive. But in my mind there's no way he's a huge positive.

Points: 0

#23 by gomer_rs // Dec 09, 2015 - 9:02pm

In summary, AP should be traded to either Dallas or Baltimore.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#25 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 11:11pm

No, Dennis Green did most certainly not "make Warren Moon productive". Fer' the luv of Sammy Baugh, Warren Moom is a no-brainer HOFer who, in his last 3 years in Houston was ranked 2,9, and 21 by DYAR, then went to Minnesota, and was ranked 7,9, and 35 (injured, played 8 games), then went to Seattle, was was ranked 8, at age 41! Did Dennis Green forget how to make Moon productive, but then Dennis Erickson figured it out? To even intimate that late stage Warren Moon was "made productive by Dennis Green" or that Moon belongs in the same conversation as late stage Gus Freakin' Frerotte is just, well, just forget it. I'm not going to bother to illustrate the same point with other qbs on these respective lists. Good grief.

Points: 0

#37 by jmaron // Dec 10, 2015 - 6:45am

Will you are an arrogant you know what.

But I do enjoy reading your posts.

Points: 0

#39 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 8:32am

Sorry I got a little heated there, but my eyes still burn from watching Fathead Frerotte, The Turnover Machine.

Points: 0

#41 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 11:46am

OK, now I'm going to argue the other side, because although I think you really are very wrong in how you assign cause and effect, with regard to the dysfunctionality of the Vikings offense since Randy Moss left, you are correct in the general view of it being much easier to have a consistently productive, situationally flexible, offense via passing, than by running. There is a potential trade out there in the off season, I think, whch would provide excellent value to the Vikings, and enough potential value to the other team, that the idiot owner's handlers wouldn't be able to constrain the idiot owner.

That team, of course, is the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson, seven yards behind the best offensive line in the league, may provide excellent value to a team with a good, albeit now injury prone qb, with a terrific receiver and still-good tight end. The parallel isn't exact, given Favre's durability, but it really could be an offense along the lines of the Vikings in '09, except with better blocking and much better receiving. Peterson may be frustrated enough that he'd be willing to take a pay cut to go play behind guys who open huge holes consistently, in a city close to his home.

Of course, it doesn't make sense for the Cowboys to trade away blocking talent to obtain Peterson, but Romo's injury is going to provide draft value. Depending on how everybody finishes the season, there may be a trade to be made, where the Vikings swap draft positions in the first round, and if Jerry gets too much bourbon in him, the 2nd, while also giving the Vikings the Cowboy's 3rd round pick. Yes, I may be assigning too much efficacy to alcoholism, but a Vikings fan can hope, can't he?

Armed with better position in the 1st and 2nd round, and an extra 3rd, the Vikings would be well situated to pick up two excellent to good o-line prospects, as well as safety, and/or linebacker talent. Or, hell, as bad is the blocking is now, go take o-limemen in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round, and use the extra 3rd round pick to take a safety or trade down for more late round picks.

Yes, it would help if the Browns cut Manziel, and Jerrel became enamored in getting another enthusiastic imbiber on his team, with which to share a hobby, thereby lessening the chance that the Cowboys would be compelled to draft a qb early this spring. Here's hoping!

Points: 0

#42 by BJR // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:06pm

At his age, and with his contract, Peterson will almost surely offer hideous value to whichever team he ends up on, even before additional draft picks are tossed in.

Still, I'd be surprised if Dallas are the only team with deluded enough management to believe they are an Adrian Peterson trade away from being 'contenders'. For example, just this past off-season the Chargers traded up in the top half of the first round for a running back, in spite of glaring needs across the rest of the team (the results are there for all to see).

Points: 0

#45 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 1:23pm

Nobody's going to take Peterson with his current contract. The Vikings likely only did because they thought another good year, after his year off, would give him better trade value, and because they really didn't have a good place to spend the money elsewhere last off-season. Peterson is going to have to take paycut to play elsewhere. He may be willing to do so in Dallas.

Points: 0

#43 by jds // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:50pm

Will, I think your trade analysis is good, but it has one serious flaw. Spielman will be the ones making the draft picks. I don't know if he has been able to convince the Wilfs that his prior drafts were coach choices, but his track record is less than spectacular.

Points: 0

#44 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 1:17pm

Well, let's be fair. Spielman obtained full control in 2012, and if you measure quality of picks by Pro Football Reference's AV metric (which is imperfect, to be sure) since then, the Vikings drafts are rated 3rd overall. He's definitely been above average. Smith, Rhodes, Barr, Floyd, Kendricks, Diggs all look to be excellent choices, Bridgewater may be one, Waynes is undecided,and guys like Clemmings and Hunter could still turn out o.k.. Now, I remain unconvinced whether anybody ever builds up a large enough sample size of draft picks to tell us with confidence that they are significantly better than others, but there certainly is enough data to tell us we should have no confidence that Spielman is below average. The biggest draft error was likely Kalil, but nobody was saying that after his rookie year. I think the guy started to accumulate injuries that have made him a poor player; some guys just can't stand up to the beatings, and sometimes that doesn't reveal itself in college.

Of course, the biggest draft errors in the Wilf era was trading up to grab Tavaris Jackson at the bottom of the 2nd, and drafting The Ponderous One in the top half of the 1st, a year prior to an especially rich qb class coming out. I'm pretty convinced that The Chiller was the driving force behind the T-Jack debacle, in those days where draft authority was dispersed among three guys, and I have a sneaking suspicion that in the 2011 draft, before Spielman obtained full contractual authority, ownership insisted that a qb be taken in the 1st round, in a bad year for drafting qbs. When you have a New Jersey real estate developer involved in football personnel decisions, problems arise. To his credit, I think Wilf has seen the error of his ways since then, and restricted hmself to bilking the taxpayers for a half billion or so in stadium subsidies.

Points: 0

#47 by lokiwi // Dec 10, 2015 - 3:05pm

I do think Peterson has been a valuable pick over the span of his career, but he seems to be a particularly bad matchup the Bridgewater's skill set. I thin what we saw in that first 49ers game was what the offense was supposed to be: a lot of shotgun, quick throws, and zone read. But Peterson can't run out of the shotgun, and he might be the worst blocking back in the league. So they completely abandoned an offense designed for their Qb and went with the run-heavy version that sort of works.

That's not to say any of that is Peterson's fault. Just that his skills are less valuable given what the rest of the team is good at.

Points: 0

#6 by SFC B // Dec 09, 2015 - 3:32pm

That the Texans couldn't, somehow, trade up one spot and grab Bridgewater sets my teeth on edge every Sunday.

Points: 0

#8 by gomer_rs // Dec 09, 2015 - 4:00pm

Is this where,as a HC, that you must train your OC. In practice pass coverage is always 7 man and the pass rush is always one more than you have blockers. Full contact scrimmage, OC you must find an offense that works in this situation.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#9 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 4:24pm

I really differ with the implication that coaching can reliably turn players who don't belong in the league into playes who perform well. Yes, it can make a difference, but just getting your a$$ whipped, in multiple one on one match-ups on the same play, on many plays on each drive, is not likely going to be solved by better coaching. Joe Berger is a 33 year old career back up, not primarily a center, who is going to likely start 16 games at center this year. You aren't going to coach him up into something tolerable.

Points: 0

#26 by gomer_rs // Dec 09, 2015 - 11:13pm

The thought experiment is that their O-line is so bad there will be free rusher on every play. It's possible to adjust your offensive play call to have some productivity like WV did against Clemson in the Orange Bowl about 3-4 years ago, or as SEA did when their o-line was terrible earlier in the year.

It's the responsibility of the OC to figure out how to make it work. Whether that is quick screens, quick passes, draws, or something completely original.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#27 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 11:26pm

By that reasoning, teams should just fire their scouting departments, and tell the coaches it is their responsibility to make it work, with whatever they have.

Seattle line's better mostly due to the fact that they hare playng a center now who belongs in the league, as opposed to the last guy, who doesn't.

Points: 0

#28 by gomer_rs // Dec 09, 2015 - 11:46pm

Yes. And I also realize that Minnesota doesn't have RW or the WRs that Seattle has (though hardly their most impressive position group). My point is that Norv Turner is doing very little to adjust to his teams deficiencies.

Seattle began using read-option consistently in 2012 & 2013 when their o-line fell apart due to a wave of injuries. Other OCs have made similar adjustments. Denver made a semi functional offense with Tebow, and Kyle Shanahan created a successful and functional offense with a Rookie QB and bad o-line.

It's not a long term plan, but even these issues are mitigatable. Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, and Alex Smith can run effective offenses with help from their play calling. Heck, Minn. ran a better O last year with most the same personal.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#29 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:16am

Your point overlooks the fact that in any scheme, blocking is necessary. If the Vikings can finish in the top half of the league in offense (17th right now, by DVOA), with this offensive line, a 2nd year qb, and overall a poor receiving unit, it will be a reasonably good coaching achievement. They were 22nd last year, so the assertion about last year's offense being better is inaccurate.

Points: 0

#30 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:26am

Will, I implied this point below, but I feel the need to make it explicit. You are literally arguing against someone who thinks that Norv should be able to scheme up an offense that works 11 on 13. Against NFL defenders.

Points: 0

#32 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:40am

I'm also the guy who thought it useful to argue with someone who said Gus Frerotte was significantly similar to Warren Moon, in terms of what vaule he had to an offense, so I guess I'm not being too discerning in how I pick my debates today.

Points: 0

#31 by gomer_rs // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:40am

It's an exaggerated thought experiment. Hey, they're currently just below average at 17th in offensive DVOA. But, they need to think about what they're going to do when their offensive line implodes against decent and good defenses, and some crazy drill like this might get Turner thinking about what to do when pushed to the wall.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#33 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:46am

My crazy idea was to run up the white flag against Arizona, play the practice squud guys, and try to get as healthy as possible for eminently winnable home games against Chicago and the Giants. Then hope you stay healthy for the last game in Green Bay, which would be for the division, and then play defense with a lot more intelligence than the last game against them.

Points: 0

#34 by gomer_rs // Dec 10, 2015 - 12:50am

A good thought. I wonder how much you should be willing to give up on the non-zero chance that Carson Palmer gets hurt. Not that anyone should be rooting for this, but Carson Palmer's career has primarily been defined by his injuries.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#35 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 1:13am

It's a crazy thought, that could really cause your roster to revolt. On a purely mathematical level, it makes sense.

Points: 0

#12 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:33pm

If an offensive coordinator could figure out an offense that works against 13 defenders, he would be the most brilliant coach in history.

Points: 0

#24 by Perfundle // Dec 09, 2015 - 9:15pm

Oh that's easy. Since we're already breaking player restrictions, just have 10 receivers running routes.

Points: 0

#11 by bravehoptoad // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:32pm

I'm just hoping the crappy line doesn't ruin what could be a very good QB.

Points: 0

#14 by Perfundle // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:40pm

First gif: Route 2 looks like the best option. If he throws the ball to the receiver's outside shoulder towards the sideline, he could catch the ball in stride and outrun his defender for the first down.

Second gif: Looks like Minnesota needs to work on their scramble drills. Receivers are supposed to be run in the same direction as their QB is scrambling to, whereas #11 runs in the opposite direction and #14 runs downfield.

Third gif: How is Peterson's route supposed to develop here? The left guard isn't even being pushed back; he just backpedals right into Peterson. Peterson also makes it harder by making such an exaggerately long fake handoff motion.

Fourth gif: You can't really expect to convert a 3rd-and-34, but pressure in his face doesn't mean he still can't make plays. For instance, take the 53-yard TD to Baldwin by Wilson:

Sweezy completely whiffs his assignment, leading to a rusher coming right up the middle, but that doesn't stop Wilson from throwing it more than 30 yards downfield.

Sixth gif: By my count Bridgewater holds the ball for more than 3 seconds here. That's hardly working quickly.

Points: 0

#17 by Will Allen // Dec 09, 2015 - 6:13pm

Nobody is a consistent playmaker with immediate pressue in their face. No one has ever been a consistent playmaker with immediate pressure in their face. Nobody will ever be a consistent playmaker with immediate pressure in their face. Yes, sometimes guys manage to pull it off, and some guys handle it better than others, but it isn't consistently repeatable. See the 2nd half of the first Patriots Giants Super Bowl.

Points: 0

#18 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 09, 2015 - 6:17pm

The 6th gif where about 1/4 second after Bridgewater completes his drop there is a defender on him and he spends time trying to avoid pressure? That's not working quickly?

Points: 0

#21 by Perfundle // Dec 09, 2015 - 7:52pm

It looks to me like he took too long to complete his drop. There's also a nice clean space in front of him to the left that he can step into. On top of that, there is no defender anywhere beyond that space; if this was Wilson and there was nobody open, he would scramble down that space, and so would a lot of other QBs; I saw Gabbert and Cassel do it to Seattle multiple times.

Points: 0

#15 by nickd46 // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:51pm

Minor pedantic correction to the above - looking at the description of above, receiver "3" Wallace is covered by Kam Chancellor, Chancellor should be defender "3" not defender "4". You can see this coverage play out on the left hand side of the gif above that image.

Defender "4" is K.J. Wright. If you want to check my correction the play takes place with 2:54 left in the first quarter, around 20 minutes into the coverage on NFL GamePass ( not available on the Coaches Film ), and K.J. Wright is also credited with the "tackle" on this play.

Points: 0

#16 by TimK // Dec 09, 2015 - 5:51pm

I'm glad to see assessment that Bridgewater is not the primary failure. In the early season game vs the Broncos that I was impressed by his ability under extreme pressure to make something good or at least not-too-bad happen. For a young QB that seemed something that could be built upon. Hopefully he doesn't break and gets a chance to grow as a player in the future.

Points: 0

#46 by themothership // Dec 10, 2015 - 2:59pm

I'm a big Cian fan but he certainly seems in the minority in his opinion. Even other huge Teddy fans over the past year or two have either a) damped their optimism a bit b) acknolwedge he has not played particularly well this year.

Remember the numerous film room articles praising Bridgewater by Cian last year? How Cian had claimed Bridgewater was already a borderline top 10 QB in the league? The optimism got a little bit too out of hand last year and I guess it's not really about Cian as much as alot of draft twitter as a whole who went out of their way to point to how much they liked Bridewater coming out and thought the scouts were wrong. It's one of those things, with Teddy, we'll hear all about how much he has progressed and how much the league was "Wrong" about him and his "small hands" and "poor workout" the times he plays well. Last year, how many Film Room pieces were there the week after Bridgewater played well? There were multiple of them.

But what about for the long stretches where he is the definition of meh or mediocre? Not a peep. Instead the only thing we get now is this is a piece defending him. To me it's just a fascinating phenomenon to watch. Cian is money with alot of his analysis on many things. But I just don't really understand what's going on with Bridgewater here and how him and draft twitter seems to be viewing him. From Seahawks calling Bridgewater out to many other people who watch tape like Greg Bedard or Greg Cossell talking about his regression and how unimpressive he has looked and from my own time I've spent watching Bridgewater this year, all I've seen is average. There literally is nothing more to his game than that this year. I guess it just fascinates me how draft twitter and some of Teddy's biggest fans will seek anything they can positive about him at all whenever it occurs, yet not make mention at all of his average/meh showings which have happened repeatedly.

Points: 0

#48 by Will Allen // Dec 10, 2015 - 3:12pm

What I would chalenge you to do is to find three rookie or 2nd year qbs who have looked better, behind blocking as bad as this, with this limited a receiving corps, in the last 10 years. First, just finding blocking this bad is going to be a challenge. I'm serious; the Vikings likely have not had a o-line this bad since 1961. As I said in the DVOA thread, it almost pointless to try to evaluate a young qb, with this kind of protection.

Points: 0

#49 by gomer_rs // Dec 10, 2015 - 3:50pm

The best comparison for similar quality of blocking and young QB is David Carr with the expansion Texans.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#51 by themothership // Dec 10, 2015 - 10:04pm

We can't talk about the offensive line play and lack of receivers and then ignore the fact he has Adrian Peterson on his team and that kind of running game to provide balance and support for the offense. In fact ,you could make a very solid argument that for a young QB a consistent and strong running game is of greater benefit than some single top notch receiver.

As for this idea that no QB has ever faced anything close to what Bridgewater has in terms of lack of pass protection and weapons

Russell Wilson has never had great pass protection at all or close to it. Over the past 2 years, his 3rd and 4th in the league, it has gone from bad to just an absolute joke. And this says nothing about receivers who've certainly had their problems with tight man coverage over the years and limitations.

Cam Newton's first few years of the league faced similar limitations. An aging Steve Smith who was nothing like the Steve Smith we saw in Baltimore from 2011-13. Limited offensive line. A coaching staff who you would hear people like Greg Cosell get after every single week for limiting Cam Newton and the passing game.

Sam Bradford back in 2010 got rather poor protection his rookie year from an overmatched offensive lien and just as notably was throwing to a laughably poor group of receivers based around 2010 version of Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Steven Jackson was around the time he was starting to decline as well. Honestly while Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater stylistcally are obviously different QBs, there is similarity I certainly see here in terms of production between both QBs and flaws in their supporting cast.

Whether or not you want to argue the Vikings have the worst blocking in the league and the Panthers of 2012 were only 5th worse in the league is largely irrelevant. There's such a thing as providing context for QB play which clearly was the intention here. But there just is nothing I see in Bridgewater that suggest some top end QB or as Cian describes "one of the most talented QB's to enter the league in recent years". Note this isn't about hot takes or whatever lazy term that gets thrown out or about needing a big arm to being a top talent. Everything I've seen from Bridgewater this year suggests a middle of the pack average QB. Is he bad? No. Is he limited? Yes. And that doesn't just boil down to a limited supporting cast. He's just has clear limitations as a QB in terms of what he adds to an offense. I just don't see this level of "football intelligence" and aspects of "pocket presence" etc others do that is suggestive of some potentially very high end QB. If you don't agree then you don't agree but this notion that Teddy is one of hte most talented QBs to come into the league in recent memory who is largely just being straddled by his supporting cast isn't something I buy and is a misrepresentation of what's going on to a decent extent from my perspective. The limitations of this offense can be blamed on many things; Teddy's performance is a central issue to it, not some byproduct of it.

Points: 0

#52 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 10, 2015 - 10:15pm

"An aging Steve Smith who was nothing like the Steve Smith we saw in Baltimore from 2011-13"

This statement makes no sense on multiple levels.

I will say that Steve Smith was and is awesome and until he got hurt would have been at worst the #2 receiver on the Vikings this year. I'm pretty sure 2011-12 Smith would be their #1.

Points: 0

#53 by themothership // Dec 10, 2015 - 11:34pm

Steve Smith was not a good player at the end of his time in Carolina. At all. I believe cian even called him the 4th best WR in carolina in 2013(and that was one god awful WR crop).

There's a reason they got rid of him. In hindsight I confused 2010 with 2011: Steve smith was very good Cam's rookie year it was 2010 he was horrendous. But 2012 even with similar stats you saw a decline in his level of play and in 2013 he just completely tanked. Steve Smith from 2012-13 was nowhere near some top 10 caliber WR his repuation had him as for years earlier. And even if you want to insist on Steve Smith being good, behind him there was literally nothing else. Greg Olsen has been very good this year: he was nothing even close to that in 2011 and 2012.

Also, that last play tonight was interesting. Not that any one play should influence any evaluation of a player much. While Matt Kalil clearly screwed up, Teddy Bridgewater showed a lack of situational awareness. He had that same kind of fumble earlier this year at the end of the game vs denver

Points: 0

#54 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 1:41am

If you are going to argue with what I have written, pay attention to what I actually wrote. Lemme know if you need help whippin' them strawmen.

Points: 0

#56 by themothership // Dec 11, 2015 - 10:06am

If you are going to use the word strawman you should actually learn what it means first slugger.

Steve Smith from 2011-12 is probably better than Stefon Diggs. How does that change the point at hand here at all? Cam Newton's offensive line was falling apart by 2012. More importantly Cam never had anything close to Adrian Peterson in his backfield.

If we're going to argue skill position players the gap between Adrian Peterson and 2012 Jonathan Stewart is certainly greater between that of 2012 Steve Smith and Stefon Diggs.

At best we can say, Cam had slightly better receiving options. Teddy had a clearly superior running game to work with. Cam probably had a slightly better O-line. All in all there is no real big gap between their supporting casts. Your general point of whining about how bad Teddy has had it and "daring me to find" a worse offensive line misses what's relevant. It pretends like there isn't much more to the discussion than O-line and more importantly it implies there is some serious gap between supporting cast between Teddy and other young QBs of recent memory who have played well. There isn't.

If you like Teddy Bridgewater as a prospect that's fine. But this world we're living in pretending like he has some significantly worse supporting cast than other young successful QBs like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have had is a dream world.

Points: 0

#57 by Will Allen // Dec 11, 2015 - 10:20am

Slugger, you appear to be illiterate. Have a nice day.

Points: 0

#58 by gomer_rs // Dec 11, 2015 - 7:31pm

In defense of Bridgewater the two successful QBs on that list are RW and Cam Newton who can consistently burn man coverage by running the ball or with the bomb.

Remembering the end of the Hasselbeck years in Seattle it was apparent that a good pocket QB, Bridgewater & Hasselbeck probably comparably athletic, with WRs that can't beat man coverage was just asking to have you're QB put on IR.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#50 by Cian Fahey // Dec 10, 2015 - 8:10pm

I did two Film Rooms on Bridgewater last year and both were half articles shared with other analysis.

Why do I never criticize Bridgewater? No idea

This article isn't even about talking up Bridgewater, it's about explaining the problems with the Vikings passing game. Problems that are primarily not about the quarterback. That's why most of this article focuses on the offensive line play and the receivers being covered downfield. Do you want me to go into some hyperbolic criticism of him because his offensive line is the worst in the league and he doesn't have viable receiving options? Pointing out those aspects of the offense is not about propping up the quarterback(whose downfield accuracy I criticized because that's the problem with him right now) it's about pointing out those aspects of the offense. If you just want hot takes and swinging opinions on quarterbacks you're reading the wrong article. If you believe I'm one of those people who just picks an opinion at draft time and sticks with it forever, then look no further to his teammate, Anthony Barr. I thought Barr was a terrible prospect coming out, just an athlete, now he's one of the better defenders in the league.

The issue isn't me or "draft twitter"(whoever that is).

Points: 0

#55 by Raiderjoe // Dec 11, 2015 - 6:22am

Loud noises!

Am seeing a lot of aggravation in,tihs thread.

Bridgewager young quarterbakc on tema with craopish offensive line and side rrciever corpse. once s Diggs Geta more experience and team gets another good receiver and fixes offensive line,, quarterback performance will become better. Also will be in dome next year. Bridgeatee fragile. Will be more effective inside in antiseptic environment.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support the Writers
Support Football Outsiders' independent media. Use promo code DERRIK to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip the team of writers.