Jets quarterback Teddy Bridgewater

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Palladino: Teddy Bridgewater Has Gone From Jets Roster Bubble To Wild Card

Ex-Vikings QB Impressing During OTAs

Ernie Palladino
June 11, 2018 - 1:37 pm
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It’s usually hard to use the word "intrigue" to describe any aspect of Jets football.

And yet, while wondering about who is going to get arrested next, who may or may not be ready for training camp and whether the Jets can take a step toward respectability this season, there is some genuine intrigue happening at this week’s three-day minicamp.

It involves the three quarterbacks: Josh McCown, Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater. In the next step toward determining this year’s starter, the competition among the three will ratchet up, eventually to a crescendo once training camp starts at the end of July.

And, believe it or not, the most interesting piece of that scenario has turned out to be Bridgewater, the former Viking who missed the last two seasons recovering from a horrific knee injury.

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At one point in the offseason, Bridgewater actually sat on a roster bubble, the fourth option on a five-man depth chart depending on how one felt about Christian Hackenberg.

Then they cut Bryce Petty. By May 22, Hackenberg was gone, too, having been traded to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick.

And there stood Bridgewater, not alone by any means, but at least in the mix.

Since then, reports out of Jets OTAs indicate Bridgewater has shown some of the characteristics that originally sparked high hopes for a long-term future with the Vikings. The movement has come back. He’s throwing on-target.

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Training camp and a return to live tackling will determine whether he’s done enough to warrant consideration as a starter over McCown or Darnold.

For now, suffice to say that Bridgewater’s resurrection, as incomplete as it may be, has turned the quarterback situation into the most interesting in years.

This is not Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith, after all. As much excitement as the addition of Tim Tebow to that mix generated, it proved a mere sideshow, with carnival barker Rex Ryan leading the way.

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Smith was a no-brainer, since Smith had produced so much negativity on and off the field that it made perfect sense to go with the bearded old veteran.

And when McCown came on, well, what were the alternatives? Petty and Hackenberg.

Now the Jets have three quarterbacks who all have starting potential, assuming Bridgewater maintains his upward progress. McCown, who hits his 39th birthday July 4, offers the wise, old head that comes through 15 years of quarterback wars. He’d be the natural starting choice if Darnold isn’t ready for Kickoff Weekend.

Darnold, the draft’s No. 3 pick, represents Mike Maccagnan’s major investment. He’s the real franchise quarterback, and he’ll be given every chance to win the job in training camp, even if it means cutting back on McCown’s snaps. He’s shown a growing comfort level with the pro playbook. And by forgoing any kind of 21st-birthday celebration in favor of an early bedtime and extra study time, he’s shown a maturity beyond his years.

Those two will remain the clear front-runners. But strange things can happen in training camp and the preseason. Bruises turn into extended absences. Perceptions change as the quarterbacks take off the red jerseys that protect them from contact during practice.

That’s where Bridgewater may get his chance. Still only 25, he’s young enough to have a long, productive career.

The one-year, $6 million deal Maccagnan signed Bridgewater to might turn out as the best money he ever spent.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino