The New York Jets’ gameplan for Teddy Bridgewater
With Tua Tagovailoa sidelined due to a consussion, Teddy Bridgewater will start at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins when they take on the New York Jets this Sunday.
Bridgewater might be the best backup quarterback in the NFL. This is a guy who is still only 29 years old and has 63 career starts under his belt, going 33-30 with 72 touchdowns, 44 interceptions, and a 90.5 passer rating.
Just last year, Bridgewater threw 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions for the Broncos while ranking 12th among qualified quarterbacks in passer rating (94.5) and 16th in yards per attempt (7.2).
Bridgewater is better than quite a few quarterbacks who are currently starting. The Jets are not necessarily catching a break here. Bridgewater has the ability of a mid-level starting quarterback.
With that being said, Bridgewater does have clear limitations that have prevented him from developing into a franchise quarterback, causing him to bounce around the league and end up in his current role as a backup.
The Jets must build their defensive gameplan around these limitations to hold Bridgewater in check. Here are a couple of keys to stopping Bridgewater.
1. Utilize a low blitz rate
Just like the Jets’ opposing quarterback from last week, Mitchell Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater fares better when he is blitzed than when he is not blitzed.
The Jets did a great job of adapting their gameplan to match Trubisky’s splits. They almost never blitzed him, and it worked like a charm as Trubisky consistently struggled to make plays against the four-man rush.
They need to use that approach again this week.
When facing 5+ rushers in 2021, Bridgewater ranked third-best among 38 qualified quarterbacks in each of yards per attempt (9.4) and Expected Points Added per dropback (+0.44). When facing fewer than 5 rushers, Bridgewater ranked 18th in EPA per dropback (+0.01) and 32nd in yards per attempt (6.4).
That’s a massive disparity.
The Jets’ defensive line holds a couple of sizable mismatches over Miami’s offensive line, which we broke down earlier this week. New York should be able to get home with the four-man rush. Couple that with Bridgewater’s tendency to perform worse against the four-man rush, and it is clear that blitzing won’t be necessary to start this game out.
2. Flush him out of the pocket
Some quarterbacks play better when forced to operate out of structure. Trubisky is one of them. Against quarterbacks like him, you want your defensive line to do the best it can to contain him in the pocket. That was part of the gameplan for New York last week, and the defensive line did a nice job executing it.
Bridgewater is not one of those quarterbacks. He is much better when he gets to sit in the pocket and operate within the offense. If he is forced to get out of the pocket and improvise, he becomes much less dangerous.
When inside of the pocket in 2021, Bridgewater was stellar, ranking 10th-best out of 38 qualified quarterbacks with 7.6 yards per attempt and sixth-best with +0.16 EPA per dropback.
Despite his reputation as a game-managing quarterback, Bridgewater was actually quite explosive when playing from the pocket in 2021. His average inside-the-pocket pass traveled 8.6 yards downfield, ranking fourth-highest among 38 qualified quarterbacks. If you let him stand in there, he will absolutely take some shots.
When outside of the pocket, Bridgewater was mediocre, ranking 27th with 5.0 yards per attempt and 25th with -0.31 EPA per dropback.
The main problem for Bridgewater when he is flushed out of the pocket is that he becomes an exceedingly conservative quarterback. Many quarterbacks turn into dangerous playmakers outside of the pocket, but Bridgewater turns into the opposite of that.
Bridgewater’s average outside-of-the-pocket pass attempt in 2021 traveled only 4.7 yards downfield, placing him last among 38 qualified quarterbacks. It was the lowest mark by an enormous margin, too. The difference between Bridgewater and the second-lowest QB (Daniel Jones) was 2.4 yards, which is the same difference between 37th-ranked Jones (7.1) and 27th-ranked Davis Mills (9.8). The NFL average in these situations was 11.4.
The +3.9-yard difference between Bridgewater’s average attempt depth when inside the pocket versus outside was by far the highest in football. Not only was his margin that stark, but only one other quarterback in the entire league threw the ball further when inside of the pocket versus outside: Daniel Jones, and his margin was only +0.1 yards.
So, the bottom line is that Bridgewater is significantly more likely to produce big plays when he is inside of the pocket than when he is outside of it.
Against this type of quarterback, you want your pass rushers to play more recklessly – in a good way. They do not have to worry about rushing the quarterback in a fashion that prevents him from escaping. Forcing Bridgewater to escape is a good thing, so they can dial up their aggression to 110% and just get after him with everything they’ve got.
Collapse the pocket and make him escape. Don’t worry about rush lanes or trying to set yourself up to catch him as he scrambles. All you need to do is make sure he doesn’t get to comfortably stand around in the pocket and good results should come.
Look for the Jets’ defensive linemen to rely on their bull-rush in an effort to create pocket cave-in that will flush Bridgewater out of the pocket.