MINNEAPOLIS –In just one month from now, Teddy Bridgewater will lead his team through the tunnel and into their new home for the Vikings first preseason game.
ProFootballTalk.com founder Mike Florio visited U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday and said that leadership during games will be crucial to Bridgewater's third year in the league. While some have argued that Bridgewater's ability to throw the deep ball is the top priority, Florio doesn't necessarily agree. Rather, Florio said the most important skill for Bridgewater is the ability to "take the game over" when the Vikings need him to.
"Whether that's a deep ball, a short pass, an intermediate pass, running instead of throwing, throwing the ball away," Florio told Vikings.com. "Whatever it takes to keep drives going – having that awareness, that clock in your head."
Florio said the time for running back Adrian Peterson to pass the torch to Bridgewater could be approaching, and Vikings teammates have noticed Bridgewater taking that step.
"Everything that I've heard, [all the players] I've interviewed today," Florio said, " 'Growth' is the one word they all use. They can see the growth in Teddy Bridgewater."
A number of facets on the team will play a role in Bridgewater's production, including the wide receiver corps and a new-look offensive line. When the Vikings signed guard Alex Boone as a free agent in March, Florio liked the move.
"He brings a team attitude that [Vikings Head Coach] Zimmer is looking for," Florio said of Boone. "[Zimmer] explained to me back at the scouting combine that their offensive line was [very] cerebral. He wants an edge, he wants a nastiness, and that's what Alex Boone has.
"You want guys who will go out there and do the dirty work," Florio added. "Guys who will hit hard and guys who will do what they have to do to open the blocking lanes and protect the quarterback."
Florio said Bridgewater will have a number of options in the passing game, from wide receiver Jarius Wright in the slot to rookie Laquon Treadwell or tight end Kyle Rudolph. One receiver who really stands out to Florio is Stefon Diggs. Diggs is entering his second season with the Vikings after being selected in the fifth round of last year's draft, and Florio said he's looking forward to seeing what Diggs' ceiling is.
"Stefon Diggs is a guy I've always liked, from the moment I first saw him perform in a regular-season game," Florio said. "I was intrigued, I was fascinated, and I continue to be amazed by how young receivers can immediately make an impact in the NFL.
"The catch he made, going full speed and laying out against Detroit – you don't see catches like that get made," Florio added. "You see guys try to do that, but you rarely see that get accomplished."
The Vikings have worked hard this offseason, and Diggs and his teammates are ready and excited to kick off training camp next week and the start of a new season lying right around the corner.
"There's excitement about the stadium, there's excitement about the team, about the players," Florio said. "There are a lot of recognizable names, star players that draw attention."
Florio added that, while he thinks it's preferable for a team to fly under the radar rather than facing high expectations, Zimmer is the right type of coach to find that healthy balance on his team. He compared Zimmer to former NFL coach Bill Parcells, whom Zimmer worked with in Dallas.
"I know Coach Zimmer will be very candid when necessary to make sure these guys understand that they haven't accomplished anything yet," Florio said. "There's a lot of that Bill Parcells that comes through in him, and that works."
The Vikings are heading into the 2016 season as the NFC North division champs after de-throning Green Bay for the title in Week 17 last season. Florio expects the competition between the Vikings and Packers to once again be intense, and he's looking forward to Week 2 when the border rivals face off in Minnesota's home opener.
Although he's predicting a battle, Florio believes the Vikings have what it takes to christen the first regular season at U.S. Bank Stadium with a win.
"If you're going to beat the Packers at home, you're going to beat the Packers at home in a new stadium," Florio said. "There's going to be that playoff atmosphere, there's going to be that extra sense of motivation. If you can't get every last ounce of performance out of yourself for that game, then you're never going to."