Minnesota Vikings No. 2 wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson wasn’t unleashed by previous head coach Leslie Frazier until later on in the regular season, but the first-round pick out of Tennessee looked like an electrifying playmaker and future star. It sounds like Norv Turner and the Vikings will rightfully try and put the ball in his hands as much as possible, and I wonder if we could see Patterson featured in special packages designed to get him the ball in space.
When Patterson came out of Tennessee, nobody questioned his physical tools, but his route-running, hands, and consistency were all put under a microscope. Seen as a raw boom-or-bust prospect with developing mental tools, Patterson’s ability to develop into a star wide receiver will depend on his ability to learn the nuances of the position and run clean routes.
In a Q&A session with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Matt Vensel, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer stated that Patterson has improved his route-running this offseason, and he also added that the team doesn’t intend to stop using him as a returner, “We want our best players to get their hands on the ball as much as possible. We’re not going to keep him from returning kicks because he is such a dangerous weapon there. He’s been a very hard worker, he has improved his route running since we’ve been here and things are going to change for these guys in training camp when we are able to start playing bump-and-run. For him to take the next step, we’re going to have to see how he gets off a jam and the things that people will try to do to take him away.”
It’s insightful information from the first-year head man, and it’s great to hear that the Vikings aren’t going to take away an avenue for Patterson to stamp his mark on a game. He’s already one of the league’s most dangerous return men, and the risk of injury shouldn’t be enough to prevent the Vikings from utilizing his game-changing ability on returns. It’s good to see that he’s working hard to get off of press coverage and run routes, because he’s going to have win as a receiver on the outside, especially with defenses set to focus on him more often. Patterson looks set for a big 2014 season, but his development hinges on continued improvements on the finer points of playing the wide receiver position.