Can Teddy Bridgewater Bounce Back in Carolina?
After a terrible injury during a practice in 2016, Teddy Bridgewater’s career was entirely up in the air. Following the injury, the former first-round pick would go on to have his fifth-year option declined by the Vikings after missing almost two full seasons and losing his job to Case Keenum (rough go).
Bridgewater became a free-agent in 2018, signing with the Jets. His stint in New York was short-lived, though. On August 29th, 2018, Bridgewater was traded to the New Orleans Saints to back up the great Drew Brees. While there was not much in the way of opportunity for him to compete with Brees, Bridgewater found himself starting five games in 2019 after a week two injury to the long-time Saints signal-caller.
In five starts, Teddy Bridgewater was not perfect, but he exceeded expectations. In his nine games in 2019, he threw for nine touchdowns versus only two interceptions and 1,384 yards.
This performance earned him a massive contract in Carolina, where new head coach Matt Rhule signed Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal.
Will Teddy Bridgewater live up to his relatively large deal? Let’s take a look at some of the things that could help him out:
Surrounding Offensive Cast
Even after investing a total of $127 million in their offensive backfield this offseason, the Panthers’ offensive line remains relatively pedestrian. The addition of Russel Okung adds some much-needed experience to the unit, but I’m not convinced that one player will have enough of an impact to improve in any substantial way on a league-worst 58 sacks allowed in 2019. The offensive line will most likely be the worst unit on the Panthers’ offense.
The weapons that surround Bridgewater, however, tell a completely different story. Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore are joined by former Jets receiver Robby Anderson, who signed with the team on a two-year, $20 million deal. The combination of these three weapons makes up what is potentially the most underrated offensive unit in the NFL.
While Christian McCaffrey gets the respect he deserves (rightly so), Moore and Anderson are heavily underrated. Despite having subpar quarterback play for large portions of 2019, the two pass-catchers racked up a total of 139 catches for 1954 yards and nine touchdowns.
Moore and Anderon’s numbers are more impressive when considering the signal callers who threw the passes: Luke Falk, Kyle Allen, Trevor Siemian, and Sam Darnold (who looked like a shell of himself after missing a decent amount of time with Mono).
With a capable quarterback in Bridgewater, Anderson and Moore will only improve. Add that to the most dynamic running back in the league, and it seems to me as though Carolina is shaping up to have a great offense this season.
In theory, the new coaching regime in Carolina should be great. Matt Rhule is a known “program builder” after taking leading a 4-7 Temple squad (2012) to consecutive 10-win seasons after only two years. Following his stint in Philadelphia, Rhule inherited a dejected Baylor program and turned them into an 11-win team in 2019.
Carolina’s new offensive co-ordinator also has quite the pedigree. Joe Brady was the mastermind behind LSU’s undefeated national championship run in 2019. Brady also took a quarterback that was average at best and turned him into a Heisman Trophy winner. Joe Burrow owes his success to Joe Brady.
Great college coaches do not always translate to the NFL. It was not so long ago that Nick Saban, who is now considered one of the best college coaches ever, went 15-17 in two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Teddy Bridgewater’s success is directly contingent on that of Brady and Rhule. I suspect that if there are any growing pains, the burden of the struggles will fall mostly on Bridgewater.
The Panthers’ defense was far from quarterback-friendly in 2019. The unit allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the league and allowed over 30 points, seven times, including a 51 point route at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl runner-ups, the San Fransisco 49ers.
A big reason for the poor performance last year could have been because, under Riviera, the Panthers ran a 3-4 system. While NFL athletes are relatively adaptable, Carolina never really had the personnel for a defense built around the 30 front. New DC Phil Snow will go back to the 4-3, which fits Carolina’s athletes more naturally.
Much like the offensive coaching situation, though, it remains to be seen whether the Panthers’ struggles can be mitigated simply by a change of scheme, and if Phil Snow can effectively translate to the NFL game.
Bridgewater has shown that he is capable of playing after missing a massive amount of time with his injury. The problem is that I am not sure if his play is sustainable for an entire season. With the Saints, Bridgewater did not need to win games himself. If asked to do so in Carolina, I fear that he will crumble.
Teddy Bridgewater has always been a game-manager type. On paper, it seems that that could be Bridgewater’s role in Carolina. His abundance of offensive weapons could mean that Bridgewater will not be under too much pressure. The wildcard will be coaching on both sides of the ball. It’s an entirely new regime from top to bottom.
If Matt Rhule, Joe Brady, and Phil Snow can translate to the NFL game, this could be a massive season for the Panthers and Bridgewater. I fear that we could see a repeat of the Browns’ season last year, where the hiring of an unproven coach led a team with top-tier talent going 6-10.
I am optimistic about the Carolina Panthers in 2020, but it is tough to gauge a team that has had so much change throughout one season.