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What was your assessment of Teddy Bridgewater's debut? I know it wasn't a full game and we'll see more of him next week most likely, but how did he look in your eyes? -- Robert C. Chicago, IL
For his first regular season action and for it happening in spontaneous fashion, Bridgewater handled himself well and I think flashed the poise and talent that appealed so much to the Vikings in the pre-draft process. Bridgewater faced blitzing and pressure constantly on Sunday, yet he never lost his composure and he often times gouged the Saints defense. Bridgewater was responsible for gains of 41 yards to Matt Asiata, 30 yards to Greg Jennings and 17 yards to Cordarrelle Patterson, and he also registered a 15-yard rush. I thought his most impressive throw was his first of the game when he hit Jennings on a deep out route for 10 yards on 2nd and 17, which set up the 41-yard catch-and-run by Asiata on 3rd and 7. While Bridgewater did not guide the Vikings to a touchdown, he did help the Vikings outscore New Orleans 9-7 from the 2nd quarter on and I thought he displayed mobility, pose and tremendous arm talent.
How do you feel Teddy Bridgewater will change the Vikings offense with his ability to extend plays with his legs? Will this be a factor in wearing down defensive lines? -- Charles D. Bluffton, SC
In the NFL, the best quarterbacks are those who win from within the pocket. But any time a quarterback can extend a play and, more importantly, a drive, with his legs, it can be demoralizing for a defense. As a defense, there isn't much worse than covering well and rushing well only to see the quarterback run for a 1st down anyway and extend the drive. Bridgewater has the mobility to do this, and I feel it will add another dimension to Norv Turner's offense. It is not a dimension that Turner will utilize frequently, but it is one Bridgewater can turn to in times of trouble. I will say, though, that Turner has already intentionally used Bridgewater's mobility once – on a 3rd and 7 from the New Orleans 16 midway through the 2nd quarter when he anticipated man coverage and called a quarterback draw to pick up the 1st down.
It seems like the offensive line has been struggling quite a bit with pass protection the past two games. In what ways do you think they can improve and give Bridgewater some more time? -- Brandan L. Fargo, ND
The offensive line battled hard in Sunday's loss to New Orleans and I thought they played better as the game progressed, and that's despite losing RG Brandon Fusco during the game. We also have to remember that pass protection is not solely the responsibility of the offensive line – running backs and tight ends are asked to help a lot in pass protection and it's important for them to be as sharp in their performance as the linemen are in theirs.
Aside from each individual lineman playing well, the Vikings pass protection stands to improve if Bridgewater can connect with his receivers versus the blitz and if the Vikings can establish a credible ground game to keep the defense honest. With an inexperienced quarterback under center, you can expect opposing defenses to blitz frequently, and until the Vikings start hitting passes down the field, you can expect plenty of defenders to drop into coverage and make it tougher for the quarterback to deliver the ball, thus forcing the linemen to protect longer.
View images from the third game of the regular season as the Vikings took on the Saints.
With Jerome Simpson's release from the team, who do you see stepping up to take his place as the third receiver? -- George D. Montgomery, MN
After Jennings and Patterson, the Vikings have a host of receivers on the active roster and practice squad who will have an opportunity to step up now that Simpson will not be coming back from his suspension and immediately taking a spot on the depth chart. Jarius Wright, in his third season, has an opportunity to see more action. There is also Rodney Smith, who has been with the team for two seasons, and there is Charles Johnson, who was just signed from Cleveland's practice squad; they will both compete for more playing time. But the name to watch may be Adam Thielen. He actually got his first start in Sunday's game at New Orleans and may be in the best position to see more game action with Simpson not returning.
Do you think the Vikings are going to get another running back to help us in the run game? -- Ben M. Shakopee, MN
Teams are constantly assessing the market of available players to see if there's a way to improve the roster, and I think it's fair to say the Vikings are doing that with the running back position. One name who will be rumored in Minnesota until he signs with a team is LaMichael James, the former University of Oregon running back who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round this year but was released on September 8.
The Vikings looking at the market to assess their options is not necessarily an indictment on Asiata, Joe Banyard or Jerick McKinnon, it's just more of an illustration that this is a competitive league and every day teams discuss how they can improve their roster. For the second consecutive week, the Vikings longest run of the game was produced by a quarterback. This is a trend that must stop next week versus the Atlanta Falcons.
With the other running backs that we still have on the roster, which do you think can make explosive plays to make our running game ticking? -- Kyle B. Watertown, MN
The three running backs on the roster are Asiata, Banyard and McKinnon, and all of them have the ability to run explosively. All three of them displayed this ability in training camp and the preseason, but doing it in the regular season is a different matter. At the end of the day, though, it's not all about the running backs. The offensive line, fullbacks and tight ends must run block well to help setup explosive runs and the passing game must be able to open things up downfield to keep the opposing defense off-balance and unable to crowd the line of scrimmage.