Teddy Bridgewater has strong support from Matt Rhule

Strong support from head coach Matt Rhule is to be expected, but it doesn’t erase the lingering questions around Teddy Bridgewater.

The Carolina Panthers have gone into a rebuild under new head coach Matt Rhule, with running back Christian McCaffrey as the centerpiece and an April draft that was all defensive players. Teddy Bridgewater will be the quarterback at the dawn of the rebuild, after signing a three-year, $63 million deal this offseason.

Bridgewater spent the last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints. In 2018, new Panthers’ offensive coordinator Joe Brady was an offensive assistant in New Orleans. After a one-year stint at LSU, Brady is back in the NFL and the Panthers’ signing Bridgewater has his familiarity with him written all over it. In this unique offseason, that familiarity will matter.

During an appearance on Around The NFL last Friday, Rhule sang praises for Bridgewater. The admiration goes back to Rhule’s first season as head coach at Temple in 2013, when the Owls faced Louisville and Bridgewater threw for 348 yards.

The best players in the world bring out the best in their teammates and I can tell you, since free agency started, the amount of the guys that want to come and play with Teddy has nothing to do with me or anybody else,” Rhule said. “They want to be a part of what he’s doing ’cause he brings out the best in people.

Bridgewater once looked like the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback of the future. A division title in 2015, his first full season as the starter, raised expectations for him heading into 2016. But a significant knee injury late in the 2016 preseason altered the course of his career. He threw exactly two more regular season passes in a Vikings’ uniform, late in a blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 of the 2017 season.

Bridgewater finally got a chance to play a good bit last season, playing significantly in six games and starting five for an injured Drew Brees. His numbers got better over that stretch of starts, as he averaged over 278 yards per game over his final three starts with seven touchdown passes and one interception over that span.

Bridgewater seemed to be on the precipice of bigger things before that career-altering knee injury, and it’s worth noting he’s still 27 years old (28 in November). A more significant sample of work last year showed teams he could still play, but overall he was solid more than great (98.9 passer rating, 7.0 yards per attempt, 7.5 adjusted yards per attempt).

As a younger quarterback Bridgewater’s intangibles seemed to be far greater than his physical tools. After what he went through with his knee injury to make it back, those intangibles are stronger if anything.

Rhule’s level of belief is important, and better than the alternative. But Bridgewater is still a quarterback who has attempted 221 regular season passes over the last three seasons (196 in 2019), and the broader questions about how good he can be aren’t erased yet.

Next: 5 NFL rookies who’ll dominate in 2020

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