He was considered a pro-ready QB by some leading up to the draft. Those who felt that way often pointed to his ability to run a pro-style offense at Louisville under then-head coach Charlie Strong, who gave him free rein to make checks and calls at the line of scrimmage.
This was one of the biggest traits Bridgewater possessed that had people excited, especially in Minnesota after the Vikings traded back up into the first round to select him with the No. 32 pick.
It's easy to make checks and calls at the line of scrimmage when you have such a firm grasp on the playbook, which Bridgewater had at Louisville.
But coming to Minnesota and the NFL and playing under new head coach Mike Zimmer and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Bridgewater has a learning curve that he must overcome in order to make any kind of an impact as a rookie.
This is the same for all rookies, but considering Bridgewater plays the most important position on the field and Minnesota finished last in the division a season ago, fans will want that timetable to be expedited.
Bridgewater will compete with veteran Matt Cassel—who re-signed in the offseason after playing in nine games last year—for the starting job. Third-year quarterback Christian Ponder will also be in the mix, but the former No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt at this point.
Bridgewater will play when he's ready.
In order to get a feel for how difficult his task will be at learning Turner's Air Coryell offense, let's take a look at what Turner said about his own offensive philosophy years ago to NFL reporter Jason Cole, via BayAreaBall.com:
I don't think it's hard to be innovative with your play calls, but it's hard to make sure that the guys you have are comfortable running those plays. The key is to make sure you have a group of plays that your team can execute and then find a way to make them look different to the defense.
That was the key to this system when Don Coryell put it together years ago. He made it very player friendly. You can give the defense a lot of different looks while running basically the same plays.
In a given week, we'll have 12 to 15 running plays that we're going to work on, and maybe 50 to 70 pass plays. In a game, we'll run maybe 10 of the running plays and 20 to 30 of the pass plays, depending on how the game goes.
One of the biggest parts of Turner's offense and the Air Coryell system in general is the deep-passing game. That is also an area where Bridgewater could use some improvement, per his NFL.com scouting report: "Does not drive the ball with velocity down the field and can be affected by cold and windy conditions (see Cincinnati). Can improve placement and touch on the deep ball."
Here's a look at one of those throws from his game against Cincinnati this season, via Draft Breakdown:
Bridgewater overthrows his intended target, who is open downfield with the safety coming over late with help over the top.
Turner's ability to work with quarterbacks and offenses in general has been well-documented, per Brian Hall of Fox Sports North: "In 23 years as an offensive coordinator and head coach, Turner has had a top-10 scoring offense 10 times. His teams have finished in the top-11 in offensive yards 11 times."
Bridgewater will have everything he needs from a developmental standpoint to be a successful NFL quarterback. And the sooner he can learn, understand and ultimately take charge of the playbook, the sooner he'll be out on the field.
For the Vikings to go from worst to first in the NFC North this season, Bridgewater will have to be the one leading that charge. There isn't another QB on the roster who has proven to be able to make that jump.
It would be a huge surprise for Bridgewater to step right in and lead the Vikings to the playoffs in his rookie season, but saviors don't get that tag without earning it.
For that to actually happen, he will have earned it.
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