Can Teddy Bridgewater overcome familiarity at the Saints in Week 7?
By Dean Jones
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater comes up against his former team on Sunday, who will know more than most how to stop him.
The Carolina Panthers face another stern test of their credentials at the New Orleans Saints in Week 7. Sean Payton‘s men look primed for a deep postseason run despite suffering some inconsistencies at the start of the campaign. They will also have the benefit of coming into the game on their bye week that gave them extra time to prepare for a familiar foe.
Teddy Bridgewater spent last season with the Saints, going 5-0 in the absence of Drew Brees through injury. This played a leading role in the quarterback getting a three-year. $63 million deal from the Carolina Panthers in free agency that also included a $15 million signing bonus and $33 million guaranteed.
Bridgewater has a lot to thank New Orleans for. But there will be no room for sentiment this weekend.
There are high stakes for the Carolina Panthers this weekend.
This is a crucial NFC South divisional matchup that might be a crossroads one for both teams. A win for the Panthers would see expectations increase regarding a surprise playoff berth once again, with a Saints’ victory giving them a chance to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Any success that comes Carolina’s way will be largely down to Bridgewater. The former first-round pick has been relatively consistent through six weeks of the season. But his level of production has come with two poor outings against the Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, both of which ended in a loss.
Nobody will know more about how to counteract Bridgewater’s threat than Payton. The Saints made a bold move to trade for the player that eventually led to a second starting chance elsewhere, and there is little doubt he was a much-loved member of the locker room during his time with the franchise.
Again, that will count for nothing on Sunday.
The Panthers have an offensive scheme that is similar to what is deployed in New Orleans. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady spent time with the organization as an assistant before moving to LSU, which leaves the element of surprise almost non-existent against a defense that is among the NFL’s best when they are firing on all cylinders.
Bridgewater will know the size of the task awaiting him at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He came up against this defense on a daily basis last year and he needs to put a poor showing last time out at the back of his mind in no uncertain terms.
There are still some who question whether Bridgewater is the man to take the Panthers forward. The Louisville product has made a big impression on his teammates’ thanks to his meticulous preparation and ability to inspire. But this hasn’t necessarily made a transition so some sections of Carolina’s fanbase thanks in no small part to their fierce loyalty towards Cam Newton.
This would be the biggest feather in Bridgewater’s cap to date. Coming up against a former team could inspire the player to reach new heights. But it will be up to Brady to come up with something a little bit different against a team where he learned his trade at a time when the Saints were at the peak of their powers.
New Orleans decided not to appoint Bridgewater as the heir apparent to Brees this offseason. Now the quarterback gets the chance to make them pay.