By Lance Zierlein
March 25, 2014
Editor's Note: All data mentioned represents the 2013 season.
Growing up and coming out of the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami is your first clue to Bridgewater’s toughness. Bridgewater didn’t miss any games due to injury during his three years as QB at Louisville and continued to play through a broken wrist in 2012 against UConn. With a bad ankle and a cast on that same broken wrist, Bridgewater beat Rutgers in his next game to earn a conference championship and BCS bowl bid against Florida whom he beat with a cast on his left wrist.
Like Manziel, Bridgewater was blitzed on 29% of his throws, but the results were much better than Manziel’s. While Manziel’s completion percentage fell 12% when blitzed, Bridgewater stayed right at 71% and saw his yards per attempt go from 8.5 to 11.3 YPA. Anyone who blitzed Bridgewater got the ass torn out of them (is that a scouting term?) with 16 TDs to 1 INT. A whopping 51.6% of Bridgewater’s TD passes came when blitzed which, remember, was just 29% of his pass attempts. In fairness, Bridgewater faced a lower level of defensive competition than Manziel.
I tried to find a hole in Teddy’s poise or toughness based on the data, but I couldn’t really do it. In fact, in “close and late” situations which I defined as the 4th quarter with a score range of +7 to -7, Bridgewater was 26 of 39 (66%) for 306 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs.
Up to this point, there really seems to be no reason to doubt Teddy Bridgewater’s accuracy as he moves to the next level. For the most part, that perception is correct.
As previously noted, “accuracy” in NFL circles is generally defined how a QB throws the ball from 0-15 yards and Bridgewater shines in that area. In fact, from 6-15 yards (intermediate throws), he completed 75.6% of his passes with 8 TDs and just 1 INT.
From the pocket, Bridgewater completed 71.9% of his passes for 27 TDs and 4 INTs and averaged 8.8 yards per play. There were some issues with Bridgewater’s deep ball consistency and he showed some troubling tendencies, but we’ll get to that later.
Teddy Bridgewater can make all of the throws on paper, but when I watch him, I can’t help but think that he’ll have some issues with ball-hawking defenders if he wants to test the boundaries with his intermediate throws. Keep in mind that for all of Bridgewater’s accuracy with short and intermediate routes, he’s going to see much more varied coverages from NFL secondaries which means he has to be comfortable throwing to all areas of the field and that appears to be a concerns.
Bridgewater is very capable with is play-action bootleg throws as long as he’s moving right and that is one of my problems with him. While I really like Teddy’s toughness, poise and accuracy, I’m worried defensive coordinators will rush him from his right and force him left and that is an issue. Bridgewater was just 7 of 17 for 55 yards and no TDs when moving to his left via rollout or scrambling. When scrambling or rolling right, he was 20 of 30 for 266 yards and 2 TDs.
Moreover, Bridgewater had just 1 TD to go with 1 INT on 60 pass attempts to the left from 6-15 yards. When making intermediate throws to the right, he had 4 TDs to 0 INTs on 63 attempts. The same issues left and right are found with his deep ball where he completed 33% of his passes 16+ yards to the left while completing 51.2% of deep balls to the right. Bridgewater hit some home runs deep which is to be expected on the college level, but he completed just 44.3% of his deep balls compared to 51.9% for Manziel and 49.2% for Bortles who both show better NFL-caliber touch on those throws when you watch them.
When you watch Teddy Bridgewater operate around and even outside of the pocket, you can see he not only has the ability to escape pressure, but to also damage defenses with his legs. However, Bridgewater simply doesn’t utilize those legs as often as I think he should.
Bridgewater scrambled 31 times for 217 yards but no TDs which is surprising considering how big a weapon that can be for all QBs on any level. As noted previously, Bridgewater was clearly more comfortable scrambling and throwing to the right, but all told, Bridgewater was 17 of 31 for 221 yards and 2 TDs when flushed from the pocket. Manziel laps Bridgewater in this category and Bortles was more effective as well. I admire Bridgewater’s ability to hang in the pocket and make plays, but he will be a more dangerous player on the next level if he can threaten teams more frequently with his feet.
The tape shows that Teddy Bridgewater has an NFL understanding of progressions and the type of poise and decision-making that should allow him to avoid being a high-turnover risk on the next level. However, the data and the tape don’t always match-up as it pertains to what to expect on the next level.
Bridgewater’s accuracy is a wonderful thing and will serve him well on the next level, but I question whether he can maintain anywhere near the same level of accuracy with his throws 12-16 yards…. especially against teams running 2-deep shells. Bridgewater doesn’t have a plus arm by NFL standards and I see him float it too often over the middle and between the CB and the safety on the sidelines. These passes turn into negative plays on the next level.
What I really like about Bridgewater is that unlike Manziel, Bridgewater seems to have a mature understanding of when to take shots and when to play it safe and dump down to the easy option. I also want to make sure and stress that Bridgewater’s ability to handle blitzes and excel against them is going to be something that teams who rely on analytics will hang their hats on when grinding the numbers on him.
Against teams running soft zones, Bridgewater was willing to take what defenses gave him and was also able to find soft spots in the zone defenses all the way up to 15 yards down the field. And while I have some doubts about his arm with some of his intermediate to deep throws, it is good enough to fit it into tight windows vs. zone coverage and he didn’t take many unnecessary chances.
NFL teams will really like the fact that 102 of Bridgewater’s 303 attempts came from under center so he can fit into most of the schemes that he will see in the NFL. What NFL offensive coordinators won’t like is that Bridgewater has a noticeably weaker throwing to the left side of the field vs. the right side - especially when he’s forced to move left. Defensive coordinators will feast on that info if he doesn’t tighten it up in the pros.
Bridgewater isn’t a running QB, but he can be a more dangerous QB with his feet than we’ve seen previously and may have to be depending on what his offensive line looks like. Despite completely just 44.3% of his passes beyond 16 yards and lacking the same deep ball touch as Manziel, Bridgewater did attack defenses down the field to the tune of 16 TDs and 3 INTs. In my estimation, the biggest question mark for Bridgewater is how he will respond if he struggles to complete his intermediate passes at a high rate. Will he default to becoming a “Check-down Charlie” or will he adjust and continue to attack defenses down the field?