If the Vikings have a genuine competition at quarterback, and not simply a rigged, confidence-building exercise for the preordained rookie, veteran Matt Cassel has claimed victory in the first live action against a defense that was allowed to actually touch the signal-caller.
The consensus is that Cassel outplayed Teddy Bridgewater, who was shaky and uneven in his first NFL game.
“I thought he did a great job,” coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game regarding Cassel. “He made a couple big throws I believe on third down. He played like a veteran, he had control in the huddle, the communication between Norv [Turner] and Scott [Turner] and him was very, very good. We will get Adrian back in there and I think that’ll help some.”
If playing like a veteran is an important factor in Zimmer’s assessment, Cassel definitely won the round.
“There was a couple times in the game when he just didn’t act like a veteran,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “Things happened that he hadn’t see before, and so those are all great experiences for him. He made some great throws and there was a couple mishaps he had, but I think Teddy is going to be a great player.”
The crowd at TCF Bank Stadium apparently agreed, based on the chants that rang out for the rookie.
“Usually the backup quarterback is always the favorite guy, right?” Zimmer joked. “They should be excited about Teddy. They are going to be cheering for him for a long, long time.”
He’ll get his second chance to secure the starting job in the second week of the preseason. Zimmer predicts that Bridgewater will improve quickly.
“He was excited to play but there were little bitty things that he needs to smooth out and just get a little bit more composed, but that comes with getting out there on the field,” Zimmer said. “He was pretty pumped up for him. He’ll be fine, he’ll be even a lot better next week.”
Bridgewater acknowledges that the NFL presents a significant adjustment.
“The speed,” Bridgewater told reporters regarding the biggest difference in the college and NFL game. “Like I said earlier in the week, ‘open’ in the National Football League isn’t ‘open’ how it was in college. Guys aren’t going to be wide open in the National Football League because guys are playing pretty tight coverage. Everything is happening faster, so that has been the biggest transition so far.”
The sooner Bridgewater can adjust, the faster he’ll be playing. But the clock is ticking quickly, too, with only two more preseason opportunities to overcome Cassel, assuming the decision will be made before the preseason finale, a game that rarely includes first-string players.