Greg Jennings knows receiver success. He saw plenty of it during his seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, and he likes what he saw with rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson during offseason practices.
"The progression, the way he's made the progression, he's made it easy. You get a young guy who's willing to work, who's willing to sponge but they work at their craft, they make it so much easier," Jennings said of Patterson. "For me as an older guy, a vet that's been through it, you see a guy like that who's working, working hard to get better week in and week out, seeing him make those jumps, it makes you feel good."
From a skills standpoint, Patterson appears to have what it takes to become a quality NFL receiver. He has height (6-foot-2), better speed than his 40-yard dash time (4.42 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine would appear to indicate, leaping ability and good hands.
The question marks about him were his work ethic, a notion Jennings seems to dispel, and being a raw route-runner from only one year of experience at a major college program (the Tennessee Volunteers).
Still, Jennings raved about Patterson's speed and several other skills that were apparent during four weeks of organized team activities and minicamp.
"Number one, his speed. Can you share some of that, please?" Jennings said with a smile. "His ability to go up and get the ball, his physicality at the line of scrimmage, different things. I told him, the one thing that I noticed in his route running that he has, he has that definitive step at the top.
"I remember coming in with that definitive step, and that kind of gets washed out because everything they teach you at this level, they want everything to look the same. So that definitive step starts to fade away. But that's what creates that separation. I just told him, ‘Do not lose that.' Because the more I see him do that, the more I remember when I used to do that and create even more separation, and I'm starting to creep that back in."
With all the coaching Patterson received during May and June workouts – and receiver coach George Stewart spent plenty of time with him – Jennings wanted to be sure Patterson didn't lose that decisive, separation-creating step at the top of his routes.
"Sometimes you can use it too much, you can overuse it, but I love it," Jennings said. "Most coaches tell you, ‘We don't need all that extra.' But sometimes what makes a player what he is is the things that we try to take away. It comes natural. That's a gift; you can't really teach that. And he has it."
Still, all that praise of Patterson's skill set doesn't erase the need for improvement.
Jennings said Patterson's big frame means he has to be conscious of staying low in and out of his breaks. If he can get the separation from defensive backs – and the Vikings could use that deep threat – Jennings has no doubt Patterson has the ability to continue to widen his lead on defenders during routes.
"Once he gets the ball in his hand, it's over. If you start seeing the back of his jersey, you might as well stop running," Jennings said.
It's interesting to note, however, that the Vikings knew they wanted Jennings to mentor Patterson before they ever drafted the rookie. After Jennings signed a five-year, $45 million free agent contract with the Vikings, they leaned on him to help Patterson advance. Jennings indicated there may have been concerns about Patterson's work ethic, but he didn't see any of those manifest during the workouts over the past two months.
Now Jennings would like to see a give-and-take relationship between the two of them – as in, sharing the skills as well as the advice.
"It's like, OK, I've got to add some of what he's doing in my game. I've got to sponge off what he has, too. It's been a give-and-take relationship," Jennings said.
"He's watching me and I'm watching him. Because when he comes off, I'm like, ‘Show me that again.' We talk a lot. He's a fun kid to be around. He's got a great personality, which always makes it easy."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.