The Houston Texans and Teddy Bridgewater: A Perfect Marriage That May Not Happen
After a horrific 2013 season, the Houston Texans have a new head coach and a new outlook moving into the 2014 season.
The Texans entered last season with Super Bowl thoughts. The additions of Ed Reed, DeAndre Hopkins and D.J. Swearinger in particular were supposed to push the roster over their playoff hump and lead them to New Jersey in February.
Unfortunately for Gary Kubiak’s side, Reed was released during the season after failing to make an impact on the field or even stay healthy. Swearinger was very inconsistent and didn’t play with any kind of poise. Hopkins was very impressive, but underused as the Texans’ passing attack collapsed at the source with quarterback Matt Schaub.
Because of their failings last season, the Texans are forced to enter this year with different thoughts. Despite the reputable players who are still under contract, the Texans must first think about how they can revitalise the roster before they can even consider another trip to the Super Bowl.
The first step in doing that will be free agency, but the biggest step will come in the draft.
Part of the Texans’ new outlook entering this offseason is based on their draft position. They will pick first overall in each round after finishing the regular season with the worst record. There are a variety of different directions the franchise can go in, but new regimes generally bring new quarterbacks.
Bill O’Brien is a quarterbacks coach who established himself working with Tom Brady in New England before becoming a successful head coach at Penn State. O’Brien may look at veteran Matt Schaub and feel that he can get his career back on track.
Schaub is 32 years of age, will be 33 entering next season, but he looked like the oldest player in the league last season. After a few early season displays that left a lot to be desired, his season snowballed and his confidence appeared to be destroyed by the time he was benched for Case Keenum.
When he returned to the field in place of Keenum later on, he didn’t do so with any real authority or impact.
The former third round draft pick was a good player in his prime, but his prime has long gone. O’Brien may want to try and turn Schaub around the way Jim Harbaugh was able to turn Alex Smith’s career around when he took over the San Francisco 49ers.
If he does that, he will be able to invest heavily in other areas.
However, he will also be passing up an opportunity to draft a quarterback who could vault his team’s offense back towards the top of the league. Some believe that quarterback is Blake Bortles out of UCF, while many are hoping that it will be Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M.
Bortles is the work-in-progress player who would possibly benefit from a year or two on the sidelines, while Manziel is the college superstar who has split the opinion of scouts across the media landscape.
Neither appears to be the best quarterback in the class though.
The best quarterback in the class appears to be Teddy Bridgewater, a 21-year-old coming out of Louisville. Bridgewater doesn’t have the overwhelming physical presence of Bortles or the flashy athleticism of Manziel. Instead he is very advanced mentally and he has enough athleticism to be very effective in the NFL.
Bridgewater is a pocket passer(full scouting report) who can extend plays and evade defenders in space before throwing downfield while on the move or from seemingly awkward body positions. He is not a Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton type of an athlete. He isn’t big or exceptionally fast, he is much more subtle in his movements.
It’s that subtlety and his intelligence that allows him to manipulate the pocket in such a way that is reminiscent of Peyton Manning. Obviously Bridgewater isn’t close to Manning at this point of his career, but in relative terms for a college player.
Bridgewater excels in areas that players normally take years in the league to become even adequate at. He seemingly diagnoses defenses before the snap, reacts quickly after the snap and appears to read through his progressions with ease while making good decisions.
That should allow him to quickly adjust to the professional level, but it should also give him a head start in his development.
Bridgewater’s primary concerns are his physical size and his inconsistent deep accuracy. His size should be seen as less of an issue after the NFL combine. He weighed in at 214 pounds in weight and 6’2″ in height, fine numbers for a professional quarterback.
His deep accuracy needs to improve, but having DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson for the early stretch of his career makes it less of an issue for the Texans. Both Hopkins and Johnson adjust to the ball in the air very well and both have the ability to turn inaccurate passes into comfortable catches with their wingspans.
Instead of focusing on Bridgewater’s issues throwing the ball deep down the field, they should focus on his consistency throwing to intermediate routes.
If we presume that O’Brien wants to build his passing attack around Hopkins and Johnson’s strengths over the coming seasons, then we must presume that his scheme will feature a high percentage of intermediate routes. Because both receivers are exceptional route runners with the size to work the middle of the field, both players excel on intermediate routes.
Adding Bridgewater to the offense would mean adding a perfect complement to that duo.
Furthermore, Bridgewater’s ability to consistently adjust in the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly would alleviate some of the team’s obvious offensive line issues. It’s unclear what system the Texans will use upfront under O’Brien, but they certainly need to address the right side of their line regardless.
Because of the way the draft coverage has gone since the beginning of last year’s college football season, Bridgewater has been somewhat relegated from being the top pick to seemingly a boring option.
Boring often translates as safe and safe is a scary word at this time of the year. Is Bridgewater safer than Bortles or Manziel? I believe so. Does that mean he is less likely to be a star quarterback on the level of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Peyton Manning? I don’t think so.
Cian Fahey writes for Bleacher Report, Football Outsiders and Football Guys. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf