“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of couchpotatogm.com analyze one offensive player and one defensive player on each team that MUST have a particularly strong individual season in 2015 for their respective teams to have a successful 2015 campaign. The ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl but a successful season doesn’t always result in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. No matter what “you” consider to be a success these counterparts are essential to achieving that goal.
Minnesota Vikings “Counterparts to be counted on” 2015
Teddy Bridgewater – We at CouchPotatoGM loved Teddy Bridgewater from his days at Louisville, was appalled when he was drafted behind Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft, and are the creators and drivers of the “Teddy Ballgame Bandwagon.” Teddy’s slide down draft boards started when rumblings of his poor Pro Day performance started circulating around the league. How can scouts, NFL evaluators, coaches, and general managers completely throw out three impressive years of college film where he showed he can run a pro-style offense, make any throw you need a QB to make with anticipation and decisiveness, for a one and a half hour pro day? Teddy, not wearing his gloves at his pro day was a big reason why he did not perform up to his typical standards but that might be the same reason why he gets to play with All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and a Mike Zimmer led defense. If Teddy can improve on his impressive rookie campaign last season, he could end up with the last laugh among the quarterbacks of the 2014 NFL Draft class.
Bridgewater, like many rookie quarterbacks struggled out the gates and he will be the first one to take responsibility for his play. But let me be the one to give you the underlying reasons for Bridgewater’s slow start. First and foremost, his offensive line self-destructed in the first half of the season leaving Teddy with little to no time to find any receivers down the field. Speaking of receivers, he had no “go to” weapons as Cordarelle Patterson disappeared each week and his big bodied tight end Kyle Rudolph was slowed by injuries and missed the majority of the season. Last but not least, the elephant in the room, Adrian Peterson did not play a single snap with Bridgewater when he was suspended for the season with his off-field issues. All three of these reasons contributed to Teddy’s slow start but as the team started gelling up front in protection, the acquisition of receiver Charles Johnson (fantasy sleeper alert), and the quarterback getting used to the speed of the NFL, Bridgewater took off. He threw 11 of his touchdown passes in the final seven games and in three of those games he had a passer rating over 114. The return of AP and Bridgewater’s emergence gives Vikings’ fans a lot to be happy about and hopefully it will propel them back into the playoffs.
Eric Kendricks – Enough can’t be said about a Mike Zimmer led defense, he took the young Vikings defense from the 32nd (worst) ranked scoring defense in the league to 11th in only one season. Wow!!! I repeat he moved up 21 spots in scoring defense in his first season as the Vikings’ head coach. Already comfortable with his offensive unit Zimmer and Minnesota’s front office bolstered his defense some more by drafting three defensive players in the first 3 rounds of the 2015 draft including CPGM defensive “counterpart to be counted on” Eric Kendricks. Kendricks joins his former UCLA running-mate Anthony Barr along with the Vikings’ old reliable, Chad Greenway in what is one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL. Kendricks will have substantial pressure on him this season as he will be called upon to produce as a three down linebacker in the middle of an improving Vikings’ 4-3 defense.
The middle linebacker position has been a revolving door in Minnesota since the departure of E.J Henderson. Kendricks will look to take over that position and add stability to the all-important “quarterback” of the defense position, the “Mike” linebacker. He will first need to show and prove that he has the ability to make the defensive checks based on what he sees from the offense. Once the rookie demonstrates his intelligence and ability to think on his feet while making pre-snap decisions, the coaching staff will rely on Kendricks to be a mainstay within the defense. His best attribute(s) out of UCLA was his competence in coverage while still demonstrating the ability to come downhill in the run game and be a sure tackler. Sounds very familiar to the pro bowler Greenway as he enters the twilight of his career. This upcoming season the two linebackers will be paired together and work closely in causing havoc for NFL running backs, tight ends and whomever dare enter the middle of the Vikings’ defense.