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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Case Keenum deserves credit, but all signs point to Teddy Bridgewater taking over

By Judd Zulgad

Case Keenum has earned accolades at Winter Park for helping to guide the Vikings to five of the six victories they posses entering the bye week. That includes a 33-16 victory over Cleveland on Sunday in London that improved Minnesota to 6-2 and will put it atop the NFC North during the week of rest.

But while the veteran quarterback deserves credit for stepping in and replacing the hobbled Sam Bradford, what he hasn’t earned is the right to call the starting job his own for the remainder of the season.

There is a good reason for this.

Bradford and his balky knee are pretty much out of the equation, but Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress in his return from what appeared to be a catastrophic knee injury suffered just over a year ago and the Vikings are soon going to have to make a decision about whether to activate him from the physically unable to perform list.

It appears likely that Bridgewater soon will be back on the 53-man roster – the 21-day window to make a decision will expire next week – and an NFL Network report Sunday indicated that he could challenge Keenum for the starting job for the Vikings’ first game out of the bye, Nov. 12 at Washington.

Zimmer did nothing to quiet this speculation after Sunday’s game when asked about having to make a decision on his starting quarterback.

“Hopefully, I have a decision to make,” he said. “I don’t know that yet. We’ve got two days of practice next week, got another day of practice (the following) Monday. We’ll sit down, we’ll evaluate everything. Case has done an unbelievable job. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do. He’s come out and kept things rolling and we’ll just figure it out as we go. I don’t know, we’ll see. I hope I have to make a decision.”

If Zimmer does have a decision to make, meaning Bridgewater doesn’t suffer a setback, it’s hard to believe that the coach won’t make the switch to a guy who was seen as the Vikings’ long-term solution at quarterback before he crumpled to the practice field in late August of last year at Winter Park. Bridgewater, whom the Vikings took with the final pick of the first round in 2014, led Minnesota to an 11-5 finish and an NFC North title in only his second season.

Zimmer has made no secret of his fondness for Bridgewater and if the Vikings feel they have a shot to make a real run in the playoffs, Bridgewater is a better option than Keenum, assuming the former’s knee allows him to play at the level he did in 2015.

The Vikings and Bridgewater aren’t going to know that answer unless they play him. Another factor is Bridgewater’s contract will expire after this season and, if it doesn’t toll because of his stay on the PUP, the Vikings might be reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal without knowing if he remains damaged goods.

As for Keenum, the 29-year-old deserves a ton of credit for stepping in for Bradford and being good enough to help his team win games. The decision to give Keenum a one-year, $2 million contract was a wise one by general manager Rick Spielman.

It likely came from a lesson learned.

Spielman entered last season with a lousy backup plan that had aging mentor Shaun Hill as the guy behind Bridgewater. Bridgewater’s injury meant the Vikings had to deal a first-round pick to Philadelphia for Bradford, who was able to make 15 starts in 2016 but clearly had a knee with an expiration date on it.

Playing Hill only made sense in an emergency and that was the case in Week 1 of 2016 after Bridgewater was hurt and Bradford was still learning the offense. Keenum isn’t great, but he’s serviceable and that’s what a team with a very good defense and a functional offense needs to survive.

While Zimmer has appreciated Keenum’s contributions, he also has made it clear that a change could be coming by never going out of his way to say Keenum was his guy. The Vikings tried to put Bradford back into the starting role in Week 5 at Chicago, but the veteran could barely move and Keenum came in to save the day.

So why not stick with Keenum?

The first half of the past two games have answered that question. Keenum was 12 of 21 for 86 yards with an interception and a horrible 46.9 passer rating at halftime of last week’s victory over Baltimore. His halftime stats Sunday against Cleveland were better – 18 of 28 for 196 yards with a touchdown, interception (off a tipped pass) and an 81.8 passer rating – but his play was sporadic.

“Early it was a little spotty, I thought,” Zimmer said in assessing Keenum’s day. “Kind of like last week. But he played great in the second (half), made some great throws, took care of the football.”

Keenum finished 27 of 43 for 288 yards with two touchdowns, the one interception and an 88.1 rating.

This is Keenum’s fifth NFL season, his third team and not the first time he’s dealt with uncertainty.

“For me, I take it a week at a time,” he said. “I’m playing a game that I love to play and as a kid, growing up, I couldn’t have even imagined getting to come to London to play an NFL game. That’s a dream come true as a kid. … I don’t think too much about the big picture of things. I take a week at a time and I love what I’m doing.”

Will Keenum love being a backup again? Probably not. But if things go according to the Vikings’ plan, that’s exactly what could happen when Minnesota plays its next game.

The post Zulgad: Case Keenum deserves credit, but all signs point to Teddy Bridgewater taking over appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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