*The Around The NFL crew will document the players we believe will be "Making the Leap" in 2015. This could be a player emerging from no-name status to a quality starter. Or it could mean an excellent player jumping to superstar status. *
Why Teddy is on the list
Bridgewater put up the best season for a rookie quarterback since the 2012 class. It's not even really close. Teddy finished with the seventh-highest passer rating and third-highest completion percentage by a rookie in NFL history.
Down the stretch of the season, Bridgewater displayed the savviness and managed games better than many veteran signal-callers. Earlier this offseason, Gregg Rosenthal analyzed Bridgewater's "old man's game," so I won't belabor that point.
After watching all of Teddy's tape from last season, there are a few traits that leap off the screen. First is his accuracy, especially on in-cutting and crossing routes. His ability to put a ball on a dime is an innate tool some quarterbacks with bigger arms can never attain. His touch is also evident on intermediate routes when he puts loft on the ball. Pro Football Focus rated Bridgewater the No. 3 overall quarterback in accuracy percentage in 2014.
Perhaps my favorite trait of Bridgewater during his rookie campaign was his improved play from the pocket and willingness to step up, avoid rushers and make a throw under pressure. The Vikings harbored an atrocious offensive line last season -- Matt Kalil, in particular, was t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e -- yet Bridgewater still stood in and delivered some brilliant throws in the face of pressure. To utilize another PFF stat, Bridgewater ranked No. 1 overall by the website in accuracy under pressure (75.2 percent). See the plays versus the New York Jets in the highlight below.
Teddy Two Minute is also mobile, but his game is more Steve Young than Russell Wilson. He's scampering to try to make a play with his arm rather than legs. When Bridgewater does take off on the ground, he doesn't force extra yardage and avoids big hits; a huge plus.
Everything is coming together for Bridgewater in Year 2. With Adrian Peterson returning to the backfield, no longer will Teddy face stacked secondaries unafraid of the play-action pass. With Mike Wallace on board, Bridgewater also has a bona fide deep threat to stretch the field -- Teddy's deep ball is underrated, and he displayed massive improvements in his accuracy on long throws as the season pressed on.
With Norv Turner directing the show and an unflappable Bridgewater as the narrator, the Vikings' offense should be exciting to watch in 2015.
Teddy doesn't possess the biggest arm and might never master the deep out route. Not being the most toolsy signal-caller could limit his ceiling, but we like his intelligence to overcome what he lacks in arm talent.
There were also times last season when Bridgewater turned into the Mayor of Checkdown City. Some of it was clearly game planning. Other times the checkdown tendency was also difficult to separate from the horrendous offensive line play. Like most young quarterbacks, his growth in reading progressions before aborting to a safety valve must improve in Year 2. We'd also like to see Bridgewater's feet become less jittery in the pocket this season.
With Peterson back as the focal point of the offense, Bridgewater might not put up monster fantasy numbers, but he'll be the propeller moving the Vikings forward.
If his play from the final month of the season progresses, Bridgewater will jump to the top 12 to 15 signal-callers in the NFL ranks.
While the humble Bridgewater said this year that the Vikings aren't "as good as we think," we believe they can be.
In the past two years, five of Around The NFL's 45 Making the Leap candidates have been Vikings players. With Peterson back, Bridgewater leaping and Mike Zimmer leading a sneaky-good defense, there is a lot to like about the 2015 Minnesota Vikings.
*The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses recent news from around the league, including the new contracts for Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. *