As first reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortenson, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was medically cleared to return to practice, clearing a major hurtle in the fourth-year player’s journey to return to the playing field. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has said that Bridgewater will start practice on Wednesday but remain on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list, but the bottom line is that it now puts the ball in the Vikings court to evaluate him and decide whether or not to activate him and move him to the active roster going forward in 2017.
The once obvious choice would have been to simply activate him and throw him back out there. However, this is not the same team that he last played with during the preseason in 2016. This group, so far, is much improved and is currently playing well enough to be 4-2 through the first six weeks with Case Keenum at the helm of five of those games. They have a legitimate chance to be 6-2 before their midseason bye week.
Some subscribe to the old saying that a starter should not lose his job due to injury, while others take the position of sticking with the hot hand. With this situation now being about not one, not two, but now three quarterbacks, the Vikings have a bit of a conundrum under center. It iis a problem, but it is arguably a good one to have.
So, which option is the best for the Vikings going forward? Let us take a look at some of the possibilities:
Go Back to Bradford (if/when he is healthy)
At the end of 2016, Zimmer said that Bradford had earned the right to be the starter for 2017. Unfortunately, Bradford’s injury-prone reputation has once again been front and center as he has played in just two of six games, only getting through half of his last start before being pulled. However, when healthy he has shown that he can be deadly accurate and can make every throw, especially on deep passes. This offense looked very explosive in week one versus the Saints. If he can somehow get his knee to cooperate going forward (that is the big question), it is highly likely he retakes the starting job, keeping Bridgewater on the sidelines.
Stick with Keenum
Case Keenum has been holding things together for this offense for the better part of five weeks since Sam Bradford went down. Despite his reputation of being a journeyman quarterback, Keenum’s play has been solid, throwing for 1,134 yards and five touchdowns versus just one interception on a 64.5% completion rate, going 3-2 over the duration. Of the two losses on his watch, only one can arguably be linked to his performance. He is made timely plays in games that have helped to spark the Vikings offense in critical times, which is a key reason for this team being 4-2, despite missing two of their most critical contributors in Bradford and rookie running back, Dalvin Cook.
The big question here is when? If I had to take a guess, it is going to be sometime after the Vikings bye week in week nine. It would give the Vikings a minimum of three and a half weeks to get their once (possibly still) franchise quarterback fully game-ready after 14 months away from the field. He may not have the big numbers, but he has done something that the other two quarterbacks on the roster have not done, and that is lead a team to the playoffs. He did so with Adrian Peterson still at his peak but also had to overcome poor pass protection and limited help outside of Kyle Rudolph, who found himself blocking more often that year, and Stefon Diggs, who was an unknown rookie then. With a much deeper group of pass catchers and greatly improved play from the offensive line, we may finally get to see Teddy thrive in the way that we thought he would when the Vikings drafted him in 2014.
At the moment, the last two scenarios look like the most probable outcomes. There has been little word on Sam Bradford’s knee trouble other than whispers of it possibly being career-threatening, based on speculation this past weekend from Fox Sports Insider’s Jay Glazer. As well as Case Keenum has played in the weeks since taking over, he has not been so good that he is locked in as the starter going forward as the Vikings have only averaged 18.6 points per game in the five games he has played. So long as Keenum continues to lead the team to victories, the Vikings should provide Teddy Bridgewater with as much time as possible to prepare for him for what is looking more and more like his inevitable return as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
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