Patterson is Vikings' most intriguing player

Cordarrelle Patterson will get his first opportunities Friday night in NFL game situations and it seems everyone involved with the offense is curious to see just how good he can be.

Cordarrelle Patterson is listed as a second-team wide receiver on the Vikings' initial preseason depth chart, yet he is one of the most intriguing players to watch.

The physical gifts are obvious. He is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, but with that body comes a unique level of speed and shiftiness.

"He's such a big body. He does a great job with his body control and out-leveraging people. He's still learning the system and the routes and everything, but he does a great job, especially on skinny posts and stuff," quarterback Christian Ponder said.

Ponder likely won't play much more than a couple series Friday night in the Vikings' preseason opener against the Houston Texans at Mall of America Field. Patterson, on the other hand, could see extensive time in the first half.

The Vikings want to see how far he has progressed since they drafted a receiver No. 29 overall with only year of major college football experience and a reputation for being a raw route-runner.

"When we say raw, we talk about not entirely detailed," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He's got great athletic ability and he has been able to dominate at every level in which he has played, so we are looking for more attention to detail, being more specific with the jobs we ask him to do."

Ponder said Patterson has already made great progress in that department. In fact, he saw a change after only a couple weeks of Patterson being on the job back at the team's Winter Park practice facility during the organized team activities of spring.

"He came and I think everyone knew that he was raw. I think within two weeks we saw a difference in OTAs in what he did," Ponder said. "There is still some room for improvement, but I think he's made a lot of progress already."

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Patterson has improved the most with his overall knowledge of the offense, which in turn has led to him running more precise routes and knowing where he is supposed to be and what he is expected to do.

That's important, Ponder said, not just for the pitch-and-catch possibilities between the two CPs on the team – Christian Ponder and Cordarrelle Patterson – but also for other receivers out in their routes on pass plays.

"The system and what we do, everyone depends on everyone else. If you don't run a route a certain way or run the right route, it's going to affect everyone else," Ponder said. "You need everyone to be perfect in what they're doing. It will be tough for him to get away with (sloppy route-running). But at the same time for us, if it's a go ball or something and he's not fully open, he's a guy that we can put some air under the ball and he'll out-jump or out-body a guy to get a ball and that's what we're excited about."

Cornerbacks attest to Patterson's speed, but perhaps the biggest surprise for everyone has been the set of hands attached to Patterson's big body. He has rarely dropped a pass during offseason workouts or training camp practices.

"I think we were very familiar with him when we drafted him. I don't think we really knew how skilled he was at catching the ball," Musgrave said. "He is a very natural hands catcher and has made a number of catches from the first day that he has showed up in that rookie mini-camp after the draft to yesterday in which he made eyebrow-raising catches."

Patterson enters the preseason opener as the team's top kickoff returner and a possibility as a punt returner (he doesn't look natural at that craft yet).

In other words, he might be the Vikings' answer to Dos Equis' campaign with the "World's Most Interesting Man." Patterson is "The Vikings' Most Intriguing Player" right now.

"He can change directions really well for a big guy. So on those deeper routes and everything, on posts and stuff, he's great at those routes," Ponder said. "We've just got to get the ball in his hands. I'm excited to see when it's not two-hand touch out there what he's going to do and how many tackles he's going to break because I remember seeing some of those highlight tapes of him at Tennessee and he was great with the ball in his hands."

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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