The Panthers made two big announcements on Tuesday – that they are officially looking to move on from Cam Newton, and that for the short term at least, his replacement in Carolina will be Teddy Bridgewater – who has signed on a 3 year, $63m contract with an effective out after two seasons. While a lot will understandably be said about the first announcement, the addition of Bridgewater will be a significant factor in the trajectory the Panthers take over the next few years.
So then, what have the Panthers got in Bridgewater, how would he fit into the system that Joe Brady is expected to run and what does this mean for the Panthers rebuild/retool over the next three seasons?
The Big Money Throws
While a lot of Brady’s passing game, at least the one he ran at LSU, is about stretching defenses horizontally with the quick passing game, it also needs there to be a suitable deep threat to stretch the field vertically – and while it is unlikely to mean they go deep every other play, for Bridgewater to be successful in this system, he will need to be able to push the ball down the field at times.
This is not something he has done a lot of in the NFL throughout his career, and is also not something that was a major point of emphasis for the Saints’ passing attack last year overall, but he did show the ability to hit tight windows down the field at times:
But there were also a few times when he didn’t quite get enough on it, either limiting the gains the throw made:
Or allowing defenders to close, leading to incompletions:
Bridgewater was thrust into the starting role when Drew Brees went down last season and a lot of these throws are more about timing than arm strength, so the fact that he hadn’t spent a ton of time working with the starters in training camp and preseason could go some of the way to explaining these underthrows, this is something he will need to be more consistent at – as well as likely more aggressive with – in order to maximize the impact he can make in Brady’s offense.
However, one area where he does show the ability to add some real value is in the intermediate passing game, and while he didn’t push the ball down the field a ton, he did show the ability to work the ball into intermediate areas well. He showed consistently nice accuracy when throwing to the outside intermediate thirds, as well as nice touch to put it over underneath defenders to a point where only the receiver can make a play on the ball:
And showed a similar level of precision when working the ball over the middle against man coverage:
And against zone, he showed both good timing down the field but also the kind of accuracy needed not only to complete passes, but to make it easier for receivers to turn upfield and run after the catch:
Of course, nobody is perfect, but on the whole, when he was inaccurate, it was either him not getting it perfectly into tight window throws to the outside of the field:
Or, on at least one occasion, where he and the receiver failed to get on the same page as they adjusted to the coverage – here Bridgewater sees the safety rolling over and throws it to the outside shoulder in an attempt to protect the receiver, which the receiver reads too late to adjust to the ball in the air:
Bridgewater doesn’t have the arm that Cam Newton did – it’s unlikely that he consistently fits the ball into tight windows 40 yards down the field, but the list of people who can do that in the history of the NFL is very small – and what Bridgewater does show the ability to do is be consistently accurate in intermediate areas, though his deep ball leaves something to be desired at times.
However, while this is likely to limit the ceiling of Bridgewater’s time in Carolina, on the majority of passing plays in the Brady offense, the ball is unlikely to be traveling 15 yards plus down the field – so how effective the Panthers’ offense can be with Bridgewater at the helm is more likely to be determined by how effective he can be working underneath in the quick passing game. So how does he fare in this regard?
Up Next: The Quick Passing Game
(Top Photo Via Mark Lagrange)