Cordarrelle Patterson emerged as the NFL's top kickoff returner as quickly as he makes a slight change of direction in his returns.
On offense, however, it was a slow building process for the rookie receiver that was eventually named Offensive Rookie of the Month for December and is now up for the fan-voted Rookie of the Year award on NFL.com.
It would appear big things are ahead for the last of three first-round picks for the Vikings in 2013. But might a new scheme slow Patterson's progress in 2014?
"It's going to be difficult. Coming in as a rookie, learning an offense, and the next year your head coach gets fired," Patterson said. "Maybe other guys will get fired, so it's going to be a whole new offense. It's going to be different, but it's my job. I'm going to pick it up."
The Vikings fired head coach Leslie Frazier on Monday. On Friday, he had landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the defensive coordinator for their new head coach, Lovie Smith.
Frazier and the Vikings took it slow with Patterson on offense in his rookie season, limiting him to 11 combined snaps in his first two games. Eventually he became a big part of the offense, and a versatile one.
But even at the end of the season, Frazier was defending the decision of the coaching staff to take it slow with Patterson's progression as a receiver, saying it was the right decision.
So what might have happened if Patterson had been used more early in the season?
"That's kind of hard to say. You can't really tell what I could have did at the beginning of the year. Everything happens for a reason. It happened so we can't go back in time. It's already done," he said.
"This has been a long year and everything (that's) been happening. I learned a lot, just the year I've been here, the ups and downs, a lot of changes. Like I said, we just got to get ready for next year."
Patterson was targeted only 11 times in the first five games. In the sixth game, he was targeted six times, his high-water mark for the first half of the season. But over the course of two games in November he was targeted a combined 20 times and finished the season with 77 targets and 45 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns.
"It was a good season. Looking back on film, it could have been a better season for me," Patterson said. "Just the little things, the little mistakes I made. But next year, hopefully it will be a better season for me."
In addition to leading the league with a 32.4-yard kickoff return average and emerging as a receiver, the Vikings became more trusting of using him as a running threat out of the backfield or on end-around plays. He finished the season with 12 rushes for 158 yards.
In 2014, however, he could be starting over in some aspects. He will have a new head coach and likely a new offensive coordinator.
"You can't say it's going to be harder and you can't say it's going to be tough. The offense we had this year, I liked it a lot, so I'm going to go into the offseason and probably the whole offense is going to change. It's going to be kind of difficult, but this is our job. I got to learn a whole new offense so I'm ready for it and I'm prepared," he said.
It will be Patterson's third new offense in three years. In 2012, he made the transition from junior college to the University of Tennessee and then last year to the NFL.
"I can't control what kind of coach we get, what kind of coach I want," he said. "Whatever coach comes in, I know he's going to do great things. He's going to try to change this organization around."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
New scheme will be ‘difficult' for Patterson
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