Sunday, September 28, 2014

Best Case Scenario for Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater will get his first NFL start today when the Minnesota Vikings take on the Atlanta Falcons.  The situation is perfect for Bridgewater.

The ideal scenario for any NFL quarterback to make their NFL debut is to do so in friendly environment where the expectations are low.  That's what Bridgewater faces today.  At home, against an Atlanta team that crushed Tampa Bay last week, Bridgewater will be forgiven several mistakes with few fans expecting much other than a demonstration of pocket awareness when attempting to elude the rush from the blind side, some arm strength--on target or not, and a semblance of calm in the eye of the storm.

If Bridgewater accomplishes the above, even in a loss, Vikings' fans likely will shrug and return to see what happens in the next game.

In addition to relatively low expectations and an environment of patience, Bridgewater has two additional advantages.  The first is that Atlanta's defense is not very good.  That's small consolation to a team without a running game and with a struggling offensive line, but it is something.  Despite thrashing Tampa Bay last week, Atlanta's defense has still allowed 387 yards of offense per game.  That's tied for 25th in the NFL.

The second advantage is that, because of the Vikings' offensive line woes, Bridgewater likely will need to demonstrate all of the traits that the team hopes it has in him.  He will need to run, likely often, and he will need to make quick decisions.  Fans will understand that these are the requirement of a quarterback put in a difficult spot and will forgive an occasional lapse committed in an effort to adjust to competition at the NFL level.

In addition to all of the advantages, Bridgewater faces a daunting task today.  But even that comes wrapped in near certain fan patience.  Unlike Christian Ponder, Bridgewater does not have a nookie blanket in Adrian Peterson.  Bridgewater will have to be his own savior.  That will serve him well in the long run.  Should he prevail in any measure, Bridgewater will receive credit.  Should he fail, fans will point to the lack of support.  As with other elements of this match-up, it's a win-win for Bridgewater.

No matter the outcome, the one certainty is that--barring an injury or a four-turnover performance not directly attributable to the offensive line--Bridgewater will leave Sunday's game looking like a player somewhere between a project and a find.  That will be enough to keep him ahead of Christian Ponder and likely ahead of a healthy Matt Cassel on the depth chart.  And that would be a victory of sorts for the organization, as it will allow the team proper time to assess Bridgewater and to determine what needs ought to be addressed in the 2015 off-season.

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