How Vikings, Raiders are succeeding with their franchise QBs
Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater have each shown plenty of promise in their second seasons as NFL quarterbacks.
Bridgewater, who has led the Vikings to a 6-2 record, continues to iron out inconsistencies in his game. While he is undergoing the concussion protocol this week, head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters Wednesday that he is "progressing nicely" for Sunday’s game against the Raiders (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX).
Like any other young quarterback, Bridgewater has experienced the highs and lows of playing in the league. He can take pride in the fact that he has thrown for the fourth-most passing yards (4,589) in NFL history before his 23rd birthday, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"It’s just him being more comfortable playing and knowing the offense," Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner told FOXSports.com. "I don’t think there’s anything that’s really jumped out at me. He just has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do. A better understanding of defenses. I think he’s continuing to be a good decision-maker."
Bridgewater has shown that he can run offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense with efficiency. One NFC scout noted that though Bridgewater doesn’t have elite arm strength, the Vikings are able to win with him because he does the little things well, understands his limitations and relies on his playmakers.
"We never stop talking about getting the ball out fast enough," Turner said. "There’s a lot of good pass rushers in this league. They’re coming after you, and you have to avoid negative plays at the quarterback position. Get the ball out of your hands and get it to guys who can make plays. We always harp on that, and that starts with the feet and putting the ball where it’s supposed to be at."
Taken four slots below Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft, was Carr, a three-year starter from Fresno State. Since then, Carr has arguably shown the most promise of the second-year QBs.
The Raiders’ offense has done a good job of playing to Carr’s strengths, which are ball placement, anticipation and sturdiness in the pocket. It appears Carr is playing faster, with more confidence and more patience than he did in his rookie season. Carr’s well-documented love for film study has paid off on the field.
"He talks about being a coach on the field, and that’s not just a catchphrase for him," Raiders quarterbacks coach Todd Downing told FOXSports.com. "That’s something that he’s truly committed to. His preparation has been outstanding. You can never leave a stone unturned, he’s worked very hard to do that, and that’s allowed him to have full command of the offense."
Carr, the second-least-sacked starting quarterback in the league, has 11 touchdown passes and one interception in the past three games. The protection has been great, and Carr recognizes blitzes and gets the ball out quickly.
"He’s a very intelligent person," Downing said. "He’s an extremely hard worker. He has serious physical tools. He has a great arm. He’s much more athletic than you think. You look at him, and he’s the total package in what you want in a young quarterback because he remains hungry, which is a trait people don’t talk about, but it’s true."
Both quarterbacks should continue to enjoy success because of the talent surrounding them.
In Oakland, rookie Amari Cooper, one of the NFL’s most dangerous runners in open space, has brought life into the receivers room. In Minnesota, veteran running back Adrian Peterson is on pace to be the rushing champ and rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs has emerged.
Another element to both quarterbacks’ games is they aren’t easily rattled.
An AFC scout recited a line Carr would often refer to when talking to teams during the draft process. The 24-year-old received the following sage advice from his older brother, David, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft: "You’re going to be praised and you’re going to be criticized. Ignore both because neither matters."
For any young quarterback in the league, that’s certainly a good motto.
Miami’s unlikely leading WR: Rishard Matthews knows how quickly things can change in the NFL.
Entering a contract year, the Miami Dolphins wide receiver saw the writing on the wall.
Dolphins brass traded for Kenny Stills and signed Greg Jennings. Then, the team spent its first-round pick on DeVante Parker. With Jarvis Landry entering his second year, it appeared Matthews would be an afterthought.
Recently fired head coach Joe Philbin didn’t have legitimate plans to let Matthews compete for playing time, as sources said. Then, the fourth-year wide receiver asked to be traded or released in May.
Six months later, Matthews is leading the team eight games into the season in all receiving categories other than receptions, where he’s second to Landry. Matthews has caught 37 passes for 554 yards and four touchdowns and has shown ability to be a deep threat, ranking ninth in the league in average yards per reception (15.0) with a minimum of 30 catches.
Matthews, a 2012 seventh-round pick, arguably has helped himself more than any player in a contract year other than Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.
With Matthews, running back Lamar Miller, defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard set to test free agency next year, Dolphins’ decision-makers will face tough decisions on whom to keep.
Chicago’s got backup: Bears rookie running back Jeremy Langford broke out with 18 carries for 72 yards and three catches for 70 yards in last Monday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
Langford, who was replacing injured veteran Matt Forte (MCL), could continue to get an uptick in workload Sunday against the St. Louis Rams (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
"He has a lot of versatility," one NFC scout said. "He can run between the tackles, make the tough catch and turn short gains into long runs."
After outplaying Chargers rookie Melvin Gordon last week, he has another opportunity to steal headlines against Rams first-round pick Todd Gurley.
Langford, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, landed in the fourth round largely because of the overall depth at the position.
NFC West showdown: This Sunday’s NFC West game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) will be a game defined by matchups.
One matchup an AFC scout turned my attention to is Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter, the team’s second-leading tackler, against Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. Of course, Minter will have plenty of help from linebacker Deone Bucannon, defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Lynch, who has averaged a disappointing 3.6 yards a carry this season, has missed two games with a hamstring injury and is coming off an underwhelming performance in Dallas. Look to see if he has better burst coming off the bye week.
The Seahawks still clearly want to be a run-first team but haven’t employed the same effective downhill running game as in years past.