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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad’s 3-and-out: Fixing Bridgewater’s throwing motion will be offseason priority

By Judd Zulgad

There were plenty of items of interest that came out of Mike Zimmer’s candid season-ending press conference on Tuesday at Winter Park.

Here were three of them regarding Teddy Bridgewater, Terence Newman and Cordarrelle Patterson.

Easier said than done

It came as no surprise Zimmer made it clear that Bridgewater would be the Vikings’ starting quarterback in 2016. But that doesn’t mean the Vikings coach won’t be looking for substantial improvement from his QB, especially in a particular area.

Asked what Bridgewater needs to work on, Zimmer said: “Really, just coming over the top a little bit more,” with his throwing motion.

It was pointed out numerous times by analysts this season that Bridgewater’s three-quarters throwing motion is considered less than ideal.

Zimmer attempted to downplay that Bridgewater’s delivery might have had something to do with him having passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

“I don’t think that had anything to do with the ones batted down, but sometimes when you’re throwing the ball over the middle, it’s shorter trajectory throws, but you still have to find windows to throw it in,” Zimmer said.

What will be interesting to see is how offensive coordinator Norv Turner and his son, quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, go about trying to fix Bridgewater’s throwing mechanics.

Bridgewater should be able to alter his delivery this offseason, so he can consistently come over the top. But will he be able to continue to practice his newfound techniques when the regular season begins and the pressure is on?

This is not to compare Tim Tebow and Bridgewater as quarterbacks, but how many times did Tebow fix his elongated throwing motion in the offseason and then revert back to his old mechanics when he played in a game?

There have been success stories in this area.

One reason Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fell to the 24th pick of the 2005 draft was because many teams were concerned that his mechanics wouldn’t work in the NFL.

There’s a chance many of those teams might have been right, if Rodgers had been made the immediate starter in Green Bay, but he spent three years playing behind Brett Favre. That meant he not only had time to have his mechanics adjusted, but also then spent countless hours working on his muscle memory so his new mechanics became second nature.

Bridgewater was 22nd in the NFL this season with 3,231 passing yards and was tied for 26th in the league with only 14 touchdown passes. Expectations will be much higher for Bridgewater as he enters his third season and improved passing mechanics could help him reach those expectations.

But will he be able to take what he works on this spring and summer and carry it over into games? That’s going to be a question that won’t be answered until September.

On the move?

The Vikings signed free agent cornerback Terence Newman to a one-year, $2.25 million contract last March, in large part because he was familiar with Zimmer’s defensive system having previously played for him Dallas and Cincinnati.

When the Vikings took Michigan State’s Trae Waynes with the 11th pick of the draft last spring, the assumption was that Newman might open the season as the starter but the job would become Waynes at some point in 2015.

That never happened.

Newman, 37, in his 13th NFL season, started all 16 games and picked off a team-high three passes. Newman hadn’t played in 16 games since the 2010 season and had not had as many as four interceptions since 2011.

Newman certainly did not look like a player who should be forced to move on or retire. “I think Terence has value,” Zimmer said. “A lot of it depends on what Terence wants to do. I did not talk to him (Monday) before he left, but I’m sure that Terence and I will have conversations as we go forward.”

As I told Andrew Krammer during the Purple Podcast on Sunday, the Vikings should bring back Newman as a starting safety opposite Harrison Smith.

Waynes entered Sunday’s game against Seattle after Newman was injured and played pretty well. He’s a first-round pick and should be a starter next season. Zimmer agreed, saying he feels Waynes is ready to take on a starting role but “needs to come in and compete.”

Newman actually was reunited with Zimmer in Cincinnati in 2012 with the intention that he would play safety. He started at free safety against Arizona in Week 14 because of injuries so the transition would not be difficult.

The Vikings long have been looking for a better option at strong safety and there is always a chance they could draft someone to play that spot. But bringing back Newman as a safety could prove to be a wise move.

What a difference a year makes

At the end of the 2014 season, Zimmer said he had a possible mentor whom he wanted to work with disappointing wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in hopes of making Patterson a player who understood how to be a professional and run routes.

Zimmer refused to identify the person – former Cowboys star Michael Irvin said in November that he was the guy – but it did not matter because from all accounts it sounded as if Patterson met with the mentor at the Super Bowl and that was it.

In other words, Patterson blew off something his coach said he should do.

Not surprisingly, Patterson went from making 45 catches as a rookie, the year before Zimmer arrived, to having 33 receptions in 2014, to barely getting any time as a receiver in 2015. He caught two passes for 10 yards and was used almost exclusively on kickoff returns.

Zimmer was asked if he has seen enough of Patterson to determine that being a kick returner is all he’s going to do in the NFL. (Patterson led the NFL with an average of 31.8 yards per kickoff return this season and had two touchdowns.)

“I don’t know that for sure,” Zimmer said. “Unfortunately, this is kind of a broken record, I said this a year ago, I have hope for him. There’s times when the proof’s got to be in the pudding. He’s got to do this and if he doesn’t do it, then that’s what he’s going to be – he’s going to be a returner. At the end of the day, it’s really up to him.”

Patterson, one of the Vikings’ three first-round picks in 2013, seems to have made a decision that returning kicks is good enough for him. The next decision involving Patterson’s future will be up to the Vikings.

They will have to determine this spring if they want to exercise the fifth-year option in his contract for 2017. At this rate, it’s almost certain that won’t happen.

The post Zulgad’s 3-and-out: Fixing Bridgewater’s throwing motion will be offseason priority appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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