Cordarrelle Patterson wasn't in the top 15 for fastest players at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but ask any of his new teammates with the Minnesota Vikings what makes him a formidable receiver and speed is the answer.
Patterson could be one of those players whose time in the 40-yard dash doesn't tell the story of his playing speed with helmet and pads on while running routes. Still, the Vikings believe he could appear even faster once he is completely familiar with the playbook.
That's what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave mentioned when asked what Patterson needs to do to work himself into a contributing role.
"I think get more familiar with the system and play faster – less thinking, more reacting," Musgrave said.
"I think it's a process. It takes turns or repetitions and we're trying to provide him as many turns as we can without wearing him out."
As the Vikings spent the last four weeks going through their organized team activities and minicamp, they rotated receivers in and out with the rest of the first-team offense. Patterson was normally either with the first or second team, and on the field plenty as they looked to immerse him in the offense as much as possible.
Early in the process, Patterson smiled and said there was no comparison between the Vikings' offensive playbook and what he had to learn in what essentially was six months at the University of Tennessee.
In his estimation, the process of becoming a better route-runner – one of the primary things he needs to improve – starts with becoming rote with the playbook.
"If you don't learn the playbook, you can't learn running the routes," Patterson said. "I'm learning the playbook very good, and the routes are coming now. I see a lot of stuff I still need to improve on and I'm working on it."
During his first few weeks of practice with the Vikings, receivers coach George Stewart provided a seemingly constant flow of advice and tips for Patterson. As Patterson has progressed, the advice appears to have slowed.
"Coaching is basically the same (as it was at Tennessee), but here I've got a great coach who guides me every step," he said. "(Stewart) helps me out, like at Tennessee, it was the same way. He's there for me every chance I need, and he always guides me in the right direction."
In addition to his speed, Patterson has good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and good hands, and the initial impressions have been positive on Musgrave.
"He's definitely gifted with his size and his speed. He's really asserting himself in the meeting room trying to learn our system," Musgrave said.
The situation isn't much different for Joe Webb. Even though he is a veteran of three NFL seasons, none of those seasons have been spent learning the finer points of the receiver position.
He continues to make the transition from quarterback to receiver in hopes of keeping a spot on the roster.
"Joe just needs time on task. Joe is a great athlete, he's a team-oriented person, he just needs turns at running routes and catching balls and doing wide receiver jobs," Musgrave said.
Worst-case scenario for Webb is that he doesn't make the roster because of a deepening receiver corps. So what's the best case for him?
"That he can contribute on game day," Musgrave said. "We want our best 46 guys dressed on game day and we want each of them to have a role that can help us win."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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