Bridgewater has looked impressive in the preseason, but can he be the heir to Drew Brees?
With 39-year-old Drew Brees nearing the end of his illustrious career, the Saints needed to find an heir to take over as soon as next year in case Brees decides to retire. With their recent acquisition of Teddy Bridgewater from the Jets it looks like New Orleans has done just that.
Bridgewater was one of the young, up-and-coming quarterbacks in the NFL before his gruesome knee injury that kept him sidelined from football for over a year. In his last full season of starting, Bridgewater led the Vikings to a division title with an 11-5 record. While his stats weren’t phenomenal (3231 passing yards, 17 total touchdowns, 9 interceptions), he did what was asked of him and showed flashes of what he could do as he continued to progress.
Bridgewater was surrounded by a very underwhelming supporting cast during that season, including an offensive line that allowed the ninth most sacks in the league. His number one option that season was rookie Stefon Diggs, who missed the first three games due to an injury and finished the season with just 720 receiving yards.
Diggs was the only receiver for the Vikings that season to accumulate more than 500 receiving yards. The lack of weapons and poor line play were part of the reason Bridgewater didn’t have eye-popping numbers. Steven Ruiz of USA TODAY went into more detail as to why Bridgewater’s stats didn’t look more impressive.
It’s worth noting that Bridgewater’s numbers would have looked a lot better had he actually been given the opportunity to throw in the red zone, where most quarterbacks pad their stats. No quarterback who started all 16 games in 2015 attempted fewer red zone passes. He attempted only 42 passes within the opponent’s 20-yard-line. Aaron Rodgers threw 33 red zone touchdowns in 2016.
His volume stats were underwhelming, but his rate stats were impressive considering the supporting cast we was working with. Bridgewater finished ninth in completion percentage, 17th in yards-per-attempt and 13th in QBR. Not bad for a 23-year-old playing in an outdated system with no pass protection or reliable receivers to throw to.
Ruiz went on referencing Bridgewater’s poise in the pocket and accuracy as to reasons why he thinks Bridgewater is going to be a stud in this league.
Bridgewater was a very promising young player for the Vikings, but the injury ultimately cost him his starting position. The Vikings elected to trade for Sam Bradford immediately after his injury and signed Kirk Cousins this offseason, which officially ended Bridgewater’s tenure in Minnesota.
Although Bridgewater had been out of football since 2015, he showed in the preseason that he can still be a very effective quarterback when given the opportunity.
In three appearances with the Jets this preseason, Bridgewater was 28-for-38 for 316 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He also posted the fourth highest Pro Football Focus passing grade among qualifying quarterbacks.
Additionally, Bridgewater was incredible when facing pressure. According to PFF, he completed 8-of-9 passes under pressure and the only incompletion was a drop. The sample size is very small, and against inferior preseason competition, but it was enough for the Saints to give up a 2019 3rd-round draft pick.
PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) August 29, 2018
It’s important to remember that even though he has been in the NFL since 2014, Bridgewater is still only 25 years old and only has 28 career starts, so there is plenty of room to grow.
Bridgewater likely won’t see the field this season unless Brees gets injured, but having a year to learn behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback will do him good in the long run. He will also benefit greatly from being in Sean Payton‘s system, which Payton said fits Bridgewater’s skill set.
“Good decisions, accurate, smart, can move, can make the first guy miss, he’s a winner, he won in college, he’s won in the NFL,” Payton said when being asked what he liked about Bridgewater’s game.
It’s very clear the Saints think they found their future in Bridgewater. He is only on a one-year contract heading into the season, so it will be interesting to see what type of extension he gets, if any. If they don’t come to an agreement by March, the Saints would likely have to use the franchise tag on him because they wouldn’t want him to hit free agency.
Regardless of what they do, trading only a third-round pick for a potential franchise quarterback is a very small price to pay. The Saints have put themselves in a position where if Brees goes down they can put Bridgewater in and feel confident that the season isn’t lost.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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