BIt’s hard to believe, but training camps are around a month away meaning we’re starting to hear reports of what players could breakout this upcoming season. With time to spare, this seemed like a good time to go back and review my own predictions for players I felt would breakout in 2015. For quarterback, I only selected two players but both made strides in their second seasons and look to build on them this upcoming year. What I wrote about these two young signal callers entering 2015 can be found here.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings: In my article last year, I mentioned how the Vikings were pegged by many to be a sleeper but Bridgewater’s play will determine their fate. Well, he helped that prediction come to fruition. The team won the NFC North going 11-5 before a heartbreaking loss to the Seahawks on wildcard weekend. Unlike so many quarterbacks at this time, Bridgewater didn’t post gaudy statistics to get the Vikings to that point. His 3,231 passing yards and 17 total touchdowns is actually quite modest with the evolution of today’s passing attacks but still led to him participating in the Pro Bowl.
However, it’s important to note what Bridgewater did show statistical improvement in. Known for his accuracy coming out of Louisville, Bridgewater improved off his rookie season’s completion percentage of 64.4 by taking it up to 65.3%. Despite attempting 45 more passes, Bridgewater also threw three less interceptions with only nine on the season. That led to a sparkling interception percentage of 2. As long as Adrian Peterson is lined up behind him, Bridgewater isn’t going to be asked to win games the way so many quarterbacks are which means his statistics won’t completely be a reflection of his play.
With Stefon Diggs emerging as a rookie in 2015 and the selection of Laquon Treadwell (who is a much better fit for Bridgewater’s skillset than Mike Wallace), there will be options on the outside to throw to when called upon. The gaudy numbers may never be there, but Bridgewater showed enough in his second year to prove that the Vikings should be threats in the NFC for the foreseeable future.
Hit or miss: Hit
Blake Bortles, Jaguars: After a very rough rookie year, I mentioned that I wasn’t expecting Bortles to become a top tier starter in his second year, but for his game to drastically improve as him and his supporting cast continued to grow. That’s exactly what happened as Bortles placed himself in the “fantasy darling” tier of quarterbacks. Bortles finished the year with 4,428 yards passing and tied for second in the league with 35 touchdown passes not including an extra two on the ground.
Much of Bortles’ improvement also coincided with the emergence of two receivers the Jaguars acquired in 2014 when he entered the league. He now has one of the league’s more imposing wideout tandems with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns not to mention Julius Thomas who will be entering his second year working with Bortles where you’d figure their chemistry and timing has improved. Despite the highs, there are some flaws in Bortles’ play statistically. His completion percentage of 58.6 is actually a drop off from his rookie figure. That’s troubling as you’d want your quarterback to at least hit the 60% mark, but much of it could be attributed to Bortles consistently pushing the ball vertically.
With 18 interceptions Bortles led the league in that category, but due to throwing a whopping 606 times, his interception percentage actually dropped from 3.6 as a rookie to 3.
There is an off chance that this could be one of if not Bortles’s best season statistically in terms of yards and touchdowns if things go according to plan in Jacksonville. While it wasn’t necessarily garbage time, the Jaguars were playing from behind often in 2015. With a defense that figures to be much improved, Bortles and company would have more of a need to take the air out of the ball if playing with a lead in 2016. Regardless, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Jaguars in the near future and Bortles’ progress from year one to two is certainly a huge one.
Hit or miss: Hit