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Lunch Break, 9/14: Two Takes on Teddy

The first NFL regular season snap Teddy Bridgewater took was created by an urgent need.

He stepped in because of injury to veteran Matt Cassel in a hostile road environment and began a voyage, one that included considerable lore.

Bridgewater's play made him the undisputed starter going into the 2015 season, and is a large part of the optimism surrounding the Vikings, who open at the 49ers at 9:20 tonight on Monday Night Football.

The prominence of the position placed Bridgewater in multiple headlines.

Mark Craig of the* Star Tribune *wrote, in spite of the Vikings having the 12th-most-difficult strength of schedule (based on 2014 results), there is "enormous positivity" surrounding the Vikings.

Craig wrote:

*There's a widespread belief that coach Mike Zimmer's aggressive defense will take another step forward after last year's leap. On offense, there's a healthy Kyle Rudolph, a new deep threat in Mike Wallace and the long-awaited return of Adrian Peterson, the league's MVP in 2012. *

*But there is only one position in the NFL that can generate this kind of optimism. This kind of optimism comes only when there's widespread belief in the quarterback. *

Bridgewater's professional body of work includes 12 starts, six wins and six losses. That's hardly deserving of blind faith. But the popular take on Bridgewater is he'll continue to progress because of his poised pocket presence, a deepening command of offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense and, an accuracy level that saw him complete 72.1 percent of his passes over the final five games last year and a team preseason record 82.9 percent this preseason.

Craig proceeded to break down three plays from this preseason that illustrate Bridgewater's gains.

Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, meanwhile, wrote Bridgewater is "Minnesota's unquestioned leader, commanding the locker room with confidence and a slow-burning intensity.

Bridgewater described his approach of leading by actions for a team that's embraced hard work to become bolder under Zimmer.

"The moment I set foot in this facility, it's all business," Bridgewater told Murphy. "Work matters. Those guys see that. I don't say much, but when I do it, I want it to carry weight. Those guys trust that I know what I'm doing.

"If we're out there missing five starters, I'm still feeling confident with the guys out there and myself.

That right there speaks volumes."

McKinnon's role

Understandably, much has been written about the return of Adrian Peterson after more than a year, but Viking Update's John Holler took a look at how that might affect backup running back Jerick McKinnon.

McKinnon joined Matt Asiata in filling in for Peterson last season and racked up 538 yards on 113 carries before missing the final five games because of a back injury. Fully recovered, he's looked explosive during offseason practices, and Holler wrote that McKinnon is comfortable sliding into his new role, which was "the plan all along."

McKinnon is available to do much more than he was a year ago because his apprenticeship by fire has forged a much more advanced NFL player than the Vikings thought they would have at this point of his career.

"I'm a lot more comfortable this year," McKinnon told Holler. "It's not about me trying to figure out what's going on anymore. It's about knowing my assignments and making it happen. A year of experience has allowed me to play a lot faster with less thinking through training camp and the preseason."

Holler added:

*McKinnon's reliability to the Vikings offense ramped up when he was pushed into the spotlight and he learned a valuable life lesson from the experience. It's one thing to run plays in practice and in the preseason. It's another to be counted on when wins and losses count. *

While his role in the offense will diminish by design, the résumé building he was able to accomplish last year was invaluable to his game. He has become a player that can be counted on, even if he is currently serving in an understudy role.

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