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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mike Zimmer sees a more confident Teddy Bridgewater during offseason program

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It wasn’t that long ago when Carolina Panthers defenders jeered Teddy Bridgewater’s hard count in a November 2014 game at TCF Bank Stadium.

He was a rookie then in his eighth career start. Now entering his third NFL season, Bridgewater’s development is still ongoing with a couple points of emphasis. So far, he’s drawing positive reviews from head coach Mike Zimmer and teammates as he works to improve — yet without the limitations of pads, and the press coverage and pass rush they bring — on his throwing motion and aggressiveness, both in the huddle and as a decision maker.

Zimmer pulled one example of progress from a play during last week’s Organized Team Activities. As a whole, the Vikings are focused on limiting pre-snap penalties during this offseason program. But in one instance, Bridgewater got a defender to jump off his hard count, initiating a would-be free play. Then he executed the deep play-action pass to a tee, according to Zimmer.

“He saw the guy jump and said ‘gotchya.’ And he saw the safety bite a little bit and just hummed it down the middle of the field about 55 yards, a perfect strike,” Zimmer said. “Those are the kinds of things I see that two years ago, or even early last year, I don’t think he would’ve done.

“To me, he just looks more comfortable and confident in the things he’s doing.”

Expectations have raised the flood level at Winter Park, where lightning prematurely ended Tuesday’s morning practice. The Vikings’ weakest link in a NFC North-champion season was a lackluster passing attack. An onus to improve stretched even to the league’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, who vowed to be more versatile in order to help the Vikings improve through the air.

Publicly, Zimmer hasn’t levied the burden onto Bridgewater’s shoulders, but instead has encouraged him to “take command” and “let it loose” more in the offense. He’s 17-12 as a starter with a 65.1 completion rate, 28 passing touchdowns and 21 interceptions through two seasons.

“I don’t know how you measure how much of a step you take,” Zimmer said of the third-year quarterback. “I go back to great quarterbacks win and that’s the thing this guy does. Can you look up his record for me? Whatever it is, he wins games. To me, that’s the most important thing. There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than throwing the ball through the wall.”

Only two NFL teams threw for fewer than 200 yards per game last season. One, the L.A. Rams, traded up for the first-overall pick to take their quarterback of the future. The other, the Vikings, need more from Bridgewater to improve his chances of continued winning.

Another area of refinement on offense, aside from a retooled line and ‘new wrinkles’ to the scheme, is Bridgewater’s throwing motion. Overthrown passes were common among errors, so one coaching point is to ‘finish throws.’

“Put tape on last year, there’s a bunch of tape where I probably wasn’t finishing throws,” Bridgewater said. “Wasn’t following through and things like that — caused the ball to sail.”

Bridgewater, 23, said he’s noticed respect from teammates: “You walk in that huddle and all 10 guys’ eyes are on you and it’s silent. Talk about having total control, I love it.” For a consecutive offseason, he orchestrated practices out of his home state of Florida, this year in Orlando after getting together last year in Miami. He’ll look to put another session together again in the six weeks they’ll have between this mandatory minicamp and next month’s training camp.

A continued benefit, according to receiver Stefon Diggs, is the built up “camaraderie” between a young group. It’s a work in progress and they’ll continue to hone Bridgewater’s deep passes once bump-and-run coverage is introduced in a couple months.

“You take a few more shots when you’re doing that, which we’ll emphasize in training camp,” Zimmer said.

The post Mike Zimmer sees a more confident Teddy Bridgewater during offseason program appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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