Cordarrelle Patterson is the do-it-all, carefree Vikings receiver. Actually, it's more like receiver/runner/would-be-passer/kick returner/would-be punt returner.
Patterson added two more titles to his quickly expanding resume Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles by looking to pass and catching a fair catch, both first-time occurrences for him this season.
A normal glance at the stats reflects a relatively pedestrian look for a wide receiver: five catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. A look at the game film and other areas of the game statistics reveals much more.
"He opens up the playbook for sure with his multi talents. He's a very gifted young man and we want to utilize all of the gifts that he has," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's willing to work hard, spend the extra time to get the playbook down. It's great to see his growth."
Patterson started the season hardly being used at anything other than kick returner. In the first two games of the season, he played 11 combined snaps on offense and a combined 12 on special teams as the kick returner, taking one of the five kickoffs returned 105 yards for a touchdown.
Slowly, his role on offense has expanded and teams are proving just how scared they are of his return abilities. On Sunday, the Vikings returned five kicks and Patterson didn't get to touch any of them as the Eagles kicked it short and constantly gave up field position in order to avoid the big return.
Patterson takes an unselfish and pragmatic approach to that growing trend. Asked if he was getting frustrated with that approach by opponents, he was quick to respond.
"Frustrating? Man, I don't even call it frustrating. It's an opportunity for our offense, man," Patterson said. "We're starting off with the ball on our 40-, 45-yard line – who wouldn't want that? Any given time I will take that, the 45. If they don't want to kick it to me, so be it, don't kick it to me then. You're going to let us start off from the 45 every time? We'll start off on the 45."
Actually, it wasn't quite that bad. The Vikings received five kickoffs before the Philadelphia's final onside kick that Jerome Simpson recovered at the Eagles 48-yard line. They only averaged 9 yards per return, but because they were fielding them so far upfield their average starting position after kickoffs was the 34-yard line. The NFL average is the 22-yard line.
Because of the way teams have been avoiding Patterson and his league-leading 33.3-yard kickoff return average and his two return touchdowns of 105 and 109 yards, the Vikings have had a whopping 12 people return kickoffs this season – Patterson 36 of them, Toby Gerhart seven, Matt Asiata two, John Carlson two, Sharrif Floyd two, Chase Ford two, and Jarius Wright, Joe Banyard, Jerome Felton, A.J. Jefferson, Joe Webb and Rhett Ellison all one each.
At some point, they may consider flipping the ball back to Patterson and letting him go to work on even the short kicks.
"We're just doing what we've got to do. We're being smart, man," Patterson said. "If you try to flip it back, it could cause a fumble, so we'll maybe look to that, but we're just doing what we've got to do right now."
But as he spends more time with the Vikings, they are able to use him more and in different ways.
It wasn't until the eighth game of the season that he started getting more than 25 snaps a game on offense. Since then, he hasn't been under 20 snaps a game, has five games with 40 or more and one game with 50.
Still, Frazier said the Vikings did things the right way in bringing him along slowly in his rookie season after only one season of major-college football at Tennessee.
"There's no question in my mind when looking back we definitely did the right thing by bringing him along the way we did," Frazier said. "The goal was to get to this point where we're playing our best football as a team and have a guy like that growing at the right time. Unfortunately, we didn't get off to the start we wanted to, but still to see his growth has been great."
He did more Sunday against the Eagles than he has ever done. As a receiver, he caught five passes on six targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. He also induced a 28-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-10 late in the game.
"When he got that call late in the game on that defensive back he came to the sidelines and said, ‘You guys should just throw me nines all day, go routes all day. They can't cover me,'" Frazier said. "So his confidence is growing and that's good for our team. It's another day of growth for him. Every time he plays and the more he plays the better he gets."
Patterson also rushed twice for 15 yards, making it five rushes for 48 yards in the last three games, including a 33-yard touchdown. On his two rushes Sunday, he made three defenders miss, including two on an end-around that was designed to be a pass. Instead, Patterson said Greg Jennings wasn't open, so Patterson reversed his direction back to the left and picked up 12 yards on second-and-8.
According to Pro Football Focus, Patterson has caused eight missed tackles on his last five carries.
He also fielded a punt on a fair catch Sunday, and that might not be all for him.
"There are other things that we want to be able to do with him and we'll continue in these final two games to explore some of those," Frazier said.
Clearly, he has turned the corner. The rookie that started the season with only 11 offensive snaps has become the Vikings' most versatile and perhaps most dangerous weapon on a team that also has the reigning MVP.
"When you first get here, you have all these thoughts in your head as a rookie and you don't know what to expect," Patterson said. "But you've got great guys like Greg, (Jarius) Wright and Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb around here – there's no way things can be as hard as people think they are. They put in your head: learn this playbook, we need you out there. Just do what you do and take care of your business."
These days, business is good and the Patterson recession appears over.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Patterson adds even more to big repertoire
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