Rethinking 2014 Draft & Bridgewater
A Thursday notes column focusing on the Vikings and Gophers.
While the Vikings wait to see when—or even if—injured quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater will play again, some observers might be looking back to a decision Minnesota made in the 2014 draft.
The Vikings used the 32nd pick in the first round to choose Bridgewater and four selections into the second round the Raiders took Derek Carr. Both young quarterbacks became starters during their rookie seasons, with Carr throwing 21 touchdown passes for 3,270 yards and Bridgewater at 14 TD throws and 2,919 yards.
Carr increased his numbers to 32 and 3,987 yards in 2015, while Bridgewater had 14 TD passes for 3,231 yards. Last year Bridgewater missed the entire season because of a devastating late summer knee injury. Carr started 15 games in 2016 until he broke his leg, and he threw 28 touchdown passes for 3,937 yards. He also had a career high 96.7 passer rating.
Bridgewater’s career rating is 87 and he has thrown 28 touchdown passes for 6,150 yards with 21 interceptions. Carr’s career numbers are a rating of 88.4, with 89 touchdowns, 12,118 yards and 35 interceptions.
Statistics are often not conclusive, including when comparing young players. Since 2014 Carr has been give more opportunities to produce impressive numbers than Bridgewater who just this week has been able to practice with the team for the first time in over a year. However, before this season Carr was ranked No. 11 on the NFL Network’s top 100 players list. In 2016 Bridgewater was No. 96 on the same list. Partly because of his upbeat personality, Bridgewater is popular with Vikings fans and teammates but few NFL teams, if any, would likely select him before Carr if there was a 2014 draft-do-over.
With Bradford sidelined with his own knee issues, the Vikings may decide to ride out this season with backup Case Keenum who has played effectively as their starting quarterback. Then they will decide whether to make a commitment to Bradford or Bridgewater in 2018. The next few seasons should for certain answer the question of whether the Vikings made a mistake in selecting Bridgewater instead of Carr.
Right now if Keenum was injured and couldn’t play, rookie Kyle Sloter would replace him. Offensive tackle Cedrick Lang was with Sloter in Denver earlier this year including during preseason. Lang doesn’t expect his teammate to be nervous when he plays in his first NFL regular season game.
“He can play. He’s got a lot of confidence,” Lang said about the first-year QB who was in four preseason games with the Broncos and threw three touchdown passes.
The Vikings leave for London next Wednesday night, arriving on Thursday morning. The team will head for the hotel and start making preparations for the Sunday, October 29 game against the Browns.
Linebacker Eric Wilson said players have been told to set time devices to London time about eight hours before arriving there. To minimize exposure to light and cope with jet lag, players will wear dark glasses. While there will be no formal team sightseeing, players are expected to go off on their own but have been told to stay in groups.
The Gophers have played in five consecutive bowl games but the streak is in doubt halfway through this season. Minnesota is 3-3 overall and 0-3 in conference games. To get the prerequisite six wins for bowl eligibility, the Gophers will almost certainly need to win Saturday against Illinois. After that Minnesota could be an underdog in its five remaining games.
Postseason games are a well deserved reward for players and coaches. Yet Gophers coach P.J. Fleck is mum on them with his team. “I don’t mention it until you’re bowl eligible, and then you probably mention it for about ten seconds, then you move on,” Fleck said.
Fleck’s focus is on the day-to-day process of building the program and achieving his vision for Gophers football. “It’s been 50 years since we’ve won a Big Ten championship, and that’s why I came here. There’s different avenues of that happening. There’s a process and progress to that—and every day that’s all I know how to do is get better than the day…before.”
Illinois, 2-4 and 0-3 in Big Ten games, has started 14 true freshmen, the most in the country. The Illini also appear to be the worst team in the Big Ten. They have a three point win over Ball State and 13 point victory against Western Kentucky. Big Ten losses include an 11 point defeat against Rutgers, probably the conference’s second worst team. The Illini rank 117th nationally in total offense and 94th in total defense. They do lead major college teams in forced fumbles with 12.
Fleck and his coaches, including wide receivers coach Matt Simon who is originally from Farmington, developed Corey Davis into a first round NFL Draft choice at Western Michigan. In the staff’s first season at Minnesota the wide receivers, including sophomore Tyler Johnson, redshirt freshmen Phillip Howard and Mark Williams, and true freshman Demetrius Douglas have impressed.
Fleck said the staff has a “strategic” way of developing the hands of pass receivers including hockey goalie drills for eye-hand coordination. “We have over 120 different ball drills that our players can choose from to use in different aspects of where they’re at in their development,” he said.
Fleck wasn’t publicly committing earlier this week as to who his starting quarterback will be on Saturday. It’s interesting, though, that on the depth chart where Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda are listed as alternate starters, true freshman Tanner Morgan has moved ahead of redshirt freshman Seth Green. Morgan was first listed ahead of Green prior to last week’s game against Michigan State.
The Gophers game at Iowa on October 28 will start at the unusual time of 5:30 p.m. FS1 has the rights to the telecast and chose the time.
Carter Coughlin, the Gophers sophomore defensive end who has started all six games this season, is listed at 240 pounds on the depth chart but weighs 225. “I am on a new weight program to help get my weight up, but at least I haven’t been dipping,” he said.
The former Eden Prairie all-stater is a speed rusher. He started one game last season, while participating in 11 total, and he is an improved player since his freshman year.
“I can remember the first couple games last year I was like shaking, I was all over the place,” Coughlin said. “It felt like it wasn’t even football. It was like just mind blowing.
“Now it’s just like every single time I go out there I feel poised. I am super confident that I know what I am doing. Super confident in my ability, so that’s allowed me to play a lot better I think.”
A media panel included Gophers Nate Mason and Amir Coffey on its 10-player preseason All-Big Ten basketball team announced today. Mason made All-Big Ten last season as a junior, while Coffey was selected to the conference’s All-Freshman team.
Beginning with the 2018-19 Big Ten season, the men’s basketball schedule will increase to 20 conference games per team and the women’s basketball schedule will expand to 18 league games. Men’s teams will play seven opponents twice and six teams once (three home, three away). The women’s format will have teams playing five opponents twice and eight teams once (four home, four away) each season. For the 2017-2018 seasons, men’s teams are playing 18 league games, while women have 16.
Minikahda Club teaching pro Jeff Sorenson shot a six under 66 last week to set a new course record at the Sand Valley Resort in Nekoosa, Wisconsin. He and five others qualified for the Taylormade National Championship at Pebble Beach next March.
Minnesota Football Coaches Association members have until Sunday to nominate players for the all-star football game December 9 at U.S. Bank Stadium. More at Allstarfootball.org.