Bridgewater could become unblocked and ‘shell-shocked’
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Jason Taylor made a career out of demoralizing opposing quarterbacks. Now, he wonders if Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater could become "shell-shocked." Taylor, a defensive end from 1997-2011 ...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - Jason Taylor made a career out of demoralizing opposing quarterbacks. Now, he wonders if Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater could become “shell-shocked.”
Taylor, a defensive end from 1997-2011 who is sixth on the NFL career sack list, is now an analyst for NBC Sports Network. He said this week on the television show “Pro Football Talk” the lack of protection the quarterback is getting and Minnesota’s limited running game could “end up stunting Teddy Bridgewater’s development.”
Bridgewater was sacked eight times in last Sunday’s 17-3 loss to Detroit. Taylor went so far as to say Bridgewater is “going through the same situation now” as David Carr, the first pick in the 2002 draft by Houston who was sacked an NFL-record 76 times as a rookie and never developed into the player that was expected.
Two NFL quarterbacks-turned-analysts, Joe Theismann and Mark Malone, weighed in Wednesday on whether Bridgewater’s confidence is at risk. The Vikings are playing without star running back Adrian Peterson, on the NFL exempt list following an indictment last month on a felony charge of child abuse, and without one of their top offensive linemen after guard Brandon Fusco underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.
“You always run the fear of winding up with a David Carr,” Theismann said. “But I think it’s important when you invest in a young quarterback, I think you have obligations to him.”
Theismann, who starred for Washington from 1974-85, mentioned how Indianapolis offensive coordinator Tom Moore during Peyton Manning’s rookie season with Indianapolis in 1998 had “routes designed for Peyton so he didn’t get beaten up physically or mentally.” Manning was sacked just 22 times that season and is now bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Theismann has confidence in Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner doing what he can to protect Bridgewater. However, he said some of it is up to the rookie.
“The responsibility is threefold for your quarterback to not get killed,” Theismann said. “It’s on the offensive line, on the offensive coordinator and on the quarterback. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he’s going to have to get the ball out of his hands.
“Teddy will go through growing pains. The most important thing he can do is to learn to protect himself. ... They’re without one of the greatest running backs ever and without a starting offensive lineman. Those are things that don’t contribute greatly to your success, but it shouldn’t hamper your learning process.”
Asked about Taylor’s comments, Bridgewater said he’s “not at all” concerned about losing confidence because he gets hit a lot.
Bridgewater said the majority of the sacks against the Lions came because he didn’t get the ball out quick enough. He said he walked into an offensive line meeting Monday and vowed to have a quicker release to take some pressure off the blockers.
The Vikings have given up 22 sacks this season, all having come after the first game, the only one Peterson has played. Bridgewater has been sacked 10 times while playing the equivalent of 2-plus games. With Bridgewater out with a sprained ankle Oct. 2 at Green Bay, backup quarterback Christian Ponder was sacked six times.
“If you get hit enough, and that continues over a long period of time, it certainly can have an effect on anybody,” Malone said.
Malone was an NFL quarterback from 1980-89. He is now an analyst for games on Westwood One and hosts a weekday show on NBC Sports Radio with former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb.
When the Vikings drafted Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round, No. 32 overall, in May, they had plans for him likely to start at some point this season. That happened when Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending broken foot Sept. 21 at New Orleans, thrusting Bridgewater into the role without Peterson, Fusco and top tight end Kyle Rudolph, out for another month or so following groin surgery.
“Is there a risk involved? I think so,” Malone said about Bridgewater playing as a rookie on a depleted team. “When you put a guy out there who you think is your franchise quarterback, you’ve got to put players around him that can do their jobs as well and give him a chance to succeed. But what’s happened (so far) is not a detriment in terms of what is going to happen (with Bridgewater in the future).
“Clearly, Teddy is a talented kid. The front office of Minnesota, they think they’ve got a quarterback who can play at a high level. But in the NFL, you can’t do it by yourself. You have to have players around you. And that’s the next step in the process.”
In Bridgewater’s starting debut Sept. 28 against Atlanta, he passed for 317 yards and wasn’t sacked. So the Vikings at least can point to having been able to protect Bridgewater at some point.
“I’m not worried about (Bridgewater),” said Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, who shrugged off Taylor’s comments. “He’s got a very tough mind-set, he’s a great competitor. He’s got mobility in the pocket, so he can move. … And we’re going to block better.”