For a quarterback competition, things have been pretty boring as we watch for movement up and/or down the depth chart for Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and, oh yeah, Christian Ponder.
So far, through OTAs, a minicamp and one non-padded training camp practice, things have pretty much stayed exactly the same since about the time Bridgewater showed up at Winter Park sporting a quick release, a strong work ethic and poise beyond his 21 years.
Friday’s practice played out the way things have for months. Cassel was the No. 1 quarterback and threw 10 passes, completing six, during 11-on-11 competition. Bridgewater was No. 2 and threw eight passes, completing five. Ponder went third and threw only two passes, completing one.
Thursday, coach Mike Zimmer called Cassel the No. 1 quarterback, but was careful to say that could change. Friday, he was asked why he went out of his way to call Cassel No. 1 and whether he felt obliged to do that because Cassel is the veteran.
“I figured everybody would ask,” Zimmer said. “I did not feel obliged to make that statement whatsoever. It doesn’t mean that when we play the St. Louis Rams [on opening day] he’s going to be the starter, but he was going to line up with the first team. I knew you all wanted to hear something like that. That’s why I did it.
“I think I clarified that when I said it yesterday, he’s number one quarterback but he’s not declared the starter.”
Cassel was asked if he was expecting Zimmer to make that statement heading into camp.
“I would be lying if I said I was not,” he said. “I worked hard this offseason; I think I made a lot of progress. I think we made a lot of progress collectively as a group. My job going into camp is to continue to compete and work every day. Again, I still have to earn this thing.
“There is no easy way about it, you have to go out and perform and show these guys you know how to run the offence and you are going to be accountable to put these guys in a position to be successful.”
Bridgewater is really the only one of the three to make an upward move. After quickly moving ahead of Ponder, he’s gaining on Cassel and will no doubt put some heat on the 11-year veteran before Zimmer makes his decision later this preseason.
We’ll be doing a story Wednesday on new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s take on the development of Bridgewater. But for now, let’s just say after sitting down with Turner to watch practice film of Bridgewater, it was obvious that the longtime NFL coach is pleased with the progress and promise that Bridgewater is showing.
The Vikings practice again today, but the pads don’t go on until Sunday. Obviously, the quarterbacks don’t get hit in practice, but the tempo at the line and down the field ramps closer to game speed. So we’ll be learning more as the days pass.
Ultimately, if Cassel shows consistency, he can keep the job and allow the Vikings to be patient with Bridgewater, the rookie first-round draft pick. But consistency hasn’t always been a strength for Cassel over the years.
Yes, he was the best performer last year during the team’s three-headed quarterbacking fiasco. But while we should applaud his play in the wins over Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we also shouldn’t forget the stinkers he had against Carolina at home and Cincinnati on the road.
Bridgewater is No. 2, but this competition has yet to hit its stride.