Minnesota Vikings Expectations with Sam Bradford

Teddy Bridgewater went down with a season-ending, freakish knee injury and immediately, the hopes of a playoff run for the Minnesota Vikings ended. The loss of their rising young quarterback was certainly a crushing blow. Initially fans, and likely the other players, were shocked and distraught but history under the ownership of Zygi Wilf and the Wilf family indicates a big move would be made. Enter the Sam Bradford deal, involving the Minnesota’s first and fourth round picks in 2017. Is it worth it?

Minnesota Vikings Expectations with Sam Bradford

What can we expect from Bradford as a Viking?

Not much in the beginning. He may start the season opener against the Tennessee Titans but if he does it will be on a very simplified playbook. Adrian Peterson would be the focus of the game plan. Even if Bradford is a quick learner, the system, and language similar to his previous experience there’s still a steep learning curve.

That’s not to say that the offense would be any more limited under Bradford than it would be under Shaun Hill. Hill may know the system but at this point in his career, he doesn’t have the arm to throw out routes. Under Hill, the offense would limit the playbook to short routes like drags and slants for the most part. An offense featuring these routes with a mix of more vertical routes favors Bradford’s strengths.

Game plan

When Sam Bradford starts, be it right away or later in the season, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings adapt the offense to be more like the Philadelphia Eagles or not. Bradford had a success in the short passing game utilizing the running backs and tight ends effectively but also taking shots down the field as well. With the Eagles in 2015, Bradford threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and completed 65% of his passes for seven yards per attempts. Statistically, Bradford was comparable to Teddy Bridgewater last season. There are also some similarities in Bradford and Bridgewater’s play in that they both tend to check down to short routes more than they should and are excellent in the pinpoint accuracy and timing passing game.

Bradford does have a stronger arm than Bridgewater but not overwhelmingly so. Some have indicated that Bradford will come in and add a more vertical feel to the offense. Film review of Bradford indicates that while he may have a stronger arm he seems tentative about throwing downfield. In fact, when reviewing both players film there wasn’t much difference in the number of passes over 20 yards attempted.  So, to this point it would seem that we shouldn’t expect a big increase in deep balls, particularly considering Bridgewater had shown improvement in the preseason.

Should the Vikings adapt how the Eagles used Bradford to their offense it would feature short passes with a focus on the running back and tight ends. Jerick McKinnon would play the Darren Sproles role and Kyle Rudolph would play Zach Ertz. The system would fit Bradford’s propensity of throwing short and be more of a traditional West Coast Offense.

If Norv Turner wants to stick with his version of Air Coryell for the direction of the offense he would have to break Bradford of the habit of checking down. Bradford coming in on short notice and being forced into a passing scheme that he’s not comfortable with could be problematic.

Playoff Chances

The Vikings chances of making the playoffs have certainly increased with the addition of Bradford. The Vikings go from a 15-year career backup nearing the end of his career to a still relatively young quarterback who may still have some upside. In Bradford, the Vikings get a player comparable to what they had in Bridgewater last year in many ways. Bradford doesn’t have the mobility  that Bridgewater had but makes up for it with a bigger arm. This is not to say that Bradford is better than Bridgewater, Bridgewater was poised for a big season in 2016.

If Bradford can give the Vikings most of what they got from Bridgewater last season, they are certainly a playoff team. The Vikings were a wide left field goal away from the NFC Championship game last season with Bridgewater. It’s not unreasonable to think that Bradford could lead the Vikings to a deep playoff run given the Vikings have perhaps a top 3 defense going into 2016.

The biggest concern regarding the Minnesota Vikings expectations with Sam Bradford is his injury history. Was Bradford the best option available to Rick Spielman? Yes, but his biggest flaw is the same thing that put the Vikings in this situation. Two ACL repairs on the same knee, shoulder and concussion. The Vikings could very well be right back out there looking for a free agent at the last minute only a few games into the season. If Bradford’s injury history isn’t concerning, the offensive line should be. Bradford’s history and terrible offensive line play could be the downfall for the Vikings in 2016.