The Vikings have been a trendy pick for the pundits in the walk-up to the regular season. There are likely a variety of reasons for the appeal, from the presence of Adrian Peterson in the backfield to the workmanlike approach of head coach Mike Zimmer.
Another big element playing into the positive prognostications is the ever-improving play of young QB Teddy Bridgewater. While the Vikings would prefer to fly under the radar and thus tend to temper the positive talk about themselves, Vikings GM Rick Spielman expressed excitement about the way his young QB has worked in preparation for the 2015 season.
"We're very excited about the progress he was able to make this summer through the offseason and even I think you see some of the hard work that is paying off for him from the preseason," Spielman said. "He really has a command of the offense. They haven't put a lot in, they run a lot of basic things. But seeing him have total command, making the right calls, reads and checks and knowing where to go with the ball is very encouraging."
In command is one way to describe Bridgewater's preseason performance. Accurate is another. In fact, Bridgewater set a Vikings preseason record for completion percentage, connecting with receivers on 82.9% of his passes in the exhibition season. The graphic below illustrates not only Bridgewater's accuracy, but that of the other two current Vikings QBs during their preseason performances.
The 82.9% and 73.5% marks by Bridgewater and backup Shaun Hill, respectively, each broke the previous Vikings preseason completion percentage of 71.7%, which was set by Rich Gannon.
As encouraged as Spielman and the Vikings brass were at Bridgewater's preseason marksmanship and his work in general leading up to the 2015 regular season, they also know that preseason success does not guarantee regular season results. Appearing as a guest on a recent Vikings GamePlan, Spielman explained that the competition level "gets kicked up a notch" once the regular season begins, which for the Vikings is tonight against the San Francisco 49ers.
"You have to take that with a grain of salt just because I don't know how much game planning is going on with the other team and the other defenses," Spielman told Vikings GamePlan host Paul Allen regarding Bridgewater's team record preseason completion percentage. "I know everybody's just trying to evaluate personnel but trying to stay within the scheme of their basic packages. I'm sure when we get into the season and the game planning starts, it'll be a little bit more difficult than it has been in the preseason."
Spielman's point is a good one. But the good news is Bridgewater has the right mindset to avoid letting so much preseason success allow complacency to creep in.
"You just play within the system," the second-year passer said. "The guys know that this is an offense where everyone's going to get their numbers. Everyone's going to have individual success. So we know that we can't get bored doing things. I can't get bored throwing a flat route to Kyle Rudolph. If I have to throw a flat route to Kyle Rudolph six times a game, then I want to make sure I'm hitting that flat route six times a game and not getting bored.
"It's a system where guys are understanding what the coaches are asking of us, and I think we're going to compete at a high level."