Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner said he wasn’t surprised by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s second-half performance Saturday, when the first-round pick went 16-for-20 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including a seven-play, 83-yard drive that culminated in a game-winning touchdown pass to Rodney Smith with 18 seconds remaining.
“What I think of Teddy before the performance and after is he’s all the things you want in a young quarterback,” Turner said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s smart, he has a quick release, he’s extremely accurate. All the things he did in that second half he has been doing throughout training camp, and it’s exciting to watch him go do it in a game.”
Bridgewater’s passing rating of 136.9 was the second-highest in Vikings preseason history next to Bob Lee, who holds the record with 137.0 against the Bears on Aug. 21, 1971.
Turner said that Bridgewater has been making steady improvements in the areas where the coaches have asked him to improve.
“The number one thing is, obviously, the quickness in which we ask him to get the ball out of his hands, and that’s new to him,” said Turner. “It has taken him a little while to adjust to what we try to do, the way we run routes, when we ask him to throw the ball, and he has made progress throughout camp doing that. There’s going to be some glitches along the way because when you’re changing the way a guy goes about doing something it is not going to be perfect every time. But he has made that kind of gradual improvement, and that’s what I’m looking for. This isn’t an overnight deal, this is a gradual deal.”
Turner has been vocal about Bridgewater’s ability from the start of the offseason.
“I said after the first rookie minicamp that he is everything we hoped he would be,” Turner said.
While a lot of the focus has been on Bridgewater’s performance, Turner said that the real benefit for the rookie quarterback is having a veteran quarterback like Matt Cassel to learn from.
Speaking of Cassel, who went 12-for-16 for 153 yards and one touchdown against a very good Cardinals secondary, Turner was asked to comment on a recent statement by ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, who said that Cassel is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that cover the league and they don’t have the information we have,” Turner said. “They don’t have the data or the information. They don’t get to see a guy every single day. They don’t know a lot about the situation he is in.
“I just think it’s an uneducated opinion — you can watch three games of tape and think you know what’s going on — but I just think Matt has improved a great deal. He has quickened up. We have worked hard to get him to quicken up his release, quicken up his footwork. He has always been a very accurate passer, he has had success in this league and he is playing with confidence right now. Like I said before, we went to camp, I like our quarterback situation. I think we have three guys that can play. Obviously Matt is off to a really good start, and Teddy, with his showing last night, it’s exciting. If I was a Viking fan, I would be excited about our quarterback situation.”
Kill on O-line
Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was asked for his thoughts on how the offensive line is performing, and he pointed out that some small injuries to redshirt sophomores Jonah Pirsig and Ben Lauer have given him a little bit of concern.
“I think we’ve had a good camp. However, Jonah Pirsig hurt a groin,” Kill said “Not a major injury, but he’s been out four, five days and he was having a good camp. Like I said, we have to keep the big man healthy. If we get Ben Lauer back — he had an ankle sprain, and I think he’ll be back on Tuesday. Those are not easy to come back from, but they’re not season-ending things. We feel good about it. You know losing Caleb Bak [because of concussions] was very difficult, and Jon Christenson coming back from a major injury [broken leg], we’ve kind of moved slow on him. But the offensive line has played pretty good in camp, even with those injuries. We’ve had some guys step in there. Josh Campion has played right guard, right tackle, left tackle. The good thing about that is that if something happens you can continue to get your best offensive linemen on the field.”
• Asked if the plan was to play Bridgewater the entire second half, meaning that Christian Ponder would not see any action, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that it was. It’s hard to believe that Zimmer and Turner have given up on Ponder without giving him a decent chance to play in the second of the first two preseason games (Ponder was 3-for-6 for 39 yards vs. the Raiders), but that is apparently the story. Well, Ponder, unless Cassel and Bridgewater gets hurt, can collect his guaranteed $1.86 million salary for this season, become a free agent and maybe produce if he gets a better opportunity with another team.
• Fans were asking: Who is that No. 23 for the Vikings, who carried the ball six times for 64 yards, including a 56-yard run Saturday against Arizona and also returned two kickoffs for a total of 59 yards? He is Joe Banyard, a former Texas-El Paso running back who signed as a free agent in 2012. He played in only three games last year, and his offensive contribution was one reception for 11 yards. But on Saturday night, Banyard’s 56-yard run was the sixth-longest in Vikings preseason history.
• Veteran Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was asked how impressed he is with linebacker Anthony Barr, the No. 1 draft choice. “He is 2-for-2 [one sack in each preseason game]. He’s got great instinct,” Greenway said. “He’s a great kid. He works hard and is humble, wants to be great and works at it.”