By Ashley Scoby
Even people who casually watch football know how great Adrian Peterson is: The Vikings’ running back is one of the best to play at his position.
But the guy who hands him the ball will present his own unique challenges to the Lions when they travel to Minnesota Sunday for the teams’ Week 2 matchup. Teddy Bridgewater is in his second year with the Vikings after setting or tying 91 different rookie records within the organization.
Bridgewater carefully toes the line between mobile quarterback and traditional pocket passer, and that fence-sitting is what makes him dangerous. The term “dual-threat quarterback” gets thrown onto Bridgewater often because he’s so good at scrambling within the pocket. But the difference between Bridgewater and true “mobile” quarterbacks (like Colin Kapernick or Russell Wilson, who often have run plays designed for them) is that the Vikings’ signal caller is nearly always looking to pass.
“He’s a mobile guy, but I think he does a great job keeping his eyes downfield,” said Lions defensive end Darryl Tapp. “It’s not like when a play breaks down, he’s looking to scramble. He’s looking to keep the play going by passing it with a pass downfield. He does an excellent job there because that puts continued pressure on the defense.”
Out of the 91 records Bridgewater either reached or broke last year, none of those had to do with rushing yards, rushing attempts or rushing touchdowns. He ran 47 times last year for 209 yards, which is certainly respectable for a quarterback. His rushing numbers were actually similar to Aaron Rodgers’ (43 for 269 yards). But Rodgers’ danger isn’t his mobility down the field; it’s his mobility in the pocket.
It’s a similar problem in defending Bridgewater. When he can move that well behind his offensive line, he creates time for himself to make his reads, and for his receivers to get open. His completion percentage reflects the extra time: Bridgewater was 11th in the league last year after completing 64.4 percent of his passes.
Defending against that kind of quarterback certainly isn’t unique to the NFL, or even the division. But it doesn’t make it any easier, and the Lions know that.
“You think, ‘oh yeah, he’s gonna run because he’s a mobile quarterback,’” said Detroit linebacker Tahir Whitehead. “But no, that’s not the case because he’ll move around in the pocket; he’s still looking to pass. So instead of coming out of coverage and just going to get after the quarterback, we’re worrying about him scrambling … He’s going to open and try to free up some guys by moving around in the pocket and still look to hit you deep.”
Maintaining discipline and taking the right angles against that kind of player is crucial for Detroit. And even if it wasn’t Bridgewater they were facing this weekend, the Lions know that those fundamentals are ones to focus on after last week’s 33-28 loss in San Diego.
“I think the big thing that we have to do is make sure we have proper pursuit angles on the ball, collective and not let small passes turn into big ones,” said Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. “If we do a better job of that, we should be okay.”