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Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Vikings position preview: Quarterbacks

By Ben Goessling

MINNEAPOLIS -- Between now and the Minnesota Vikings' first training camp practice July 25, we will break down each position group. We'll get started at quarterback.

Returning players: Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder

Gone from last season: Josh Freeman, coach Craig Johnson

New this season: Teddy Bridgewater (first-round pick from Louisville)

Position coach: Scott Turner (first season), hired from Cleveland to replace Johnson (now the New York Giants' running backs coach).

Ponder
Ponder
Cassel
Cassel
Biggest issue: The Vikings need to settle on a starting quarterback who can provide stability. Cassel heads into training camp as the incumbent after one of the most chaotic years the Vikings have ever had at the position, but Bridgewater (and probably to a lesser extent, Ponder) will get a chance to compete for the job. We've been of the opinion that the Vikings shouldn't rush Bridgewater into action unless he's clearly shown he's the best quarterback on the roster, and the Vikings have decided they're going to let him keep the job and run with it. The Vikings will spend a fair amount of training camp trying to answer that question, and it could determine the direction of the most important position on the roster.

Player to watch: Bridgewater was impressive during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp, throwing a better deep ball than many expected him to have and making a number of difficult sideline throws down the field. He's shown an eagerness to learn the Vikings' offense and was already making checks at the line of scrimmage during minicamp, after about a month in the playbook. He hit 53.5 percent of his passes under pressure at Louisville last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information; Ponder hit only 46.9 percent of his throws under pressure, while Cassel was at 38.5 percent. Defenses will certainly be tougher in the NFL, and Bridgewater will have to make even quicker decisions, but his success under pressure in college gives him a good foundation for the NFL.

Medical report: Both Cassel and Ponder were healthy at the end of last season, and the Vikings shouldn't have many medical concerns about their quarterbacks headed into camp. Bridgewater could stand to put on muscle, but that won't happen overnight.

Help wanted: The Vikings should be set at quarterback, barring injury. They don't have a developmental quarterback on their roster at the moment, and probably wouldn't have many snaps for one in camp as they try to sort through a three-man race for the starting job.

Quotable: "Matt's been a productive player and he's a better player than a lot of people think," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "I'm excited about Christian. This is still a very young player whose done a lot of really good things and been put in a tough situation. We're just going to work with both of them and get the best out of them we can."