Cordarrelle Patterson is clearly going to have a bigger (and possibly more diverse) role this year.
Under a different coaching staff in 2013, Patterson was eased into his rookie season. By the appearances of offseason practices this year, the rookie training wheels are off and have been replaced by the fully inflated racing tires.
"I hope I can accomplish a lot of things I didn't accomplish last year," Patterson said Tuesday at the start of minicamp when asked about his role in Norv Turner's offense. "First, playing all 16 regular-season games. I hope I can do that next year. I hope I stay healthy. This offense is looking good for everybody. I feel like everybody is going to have a shot to do big numbers and have a great season."
Patterson would appear to be the receiver most primed for a big jump with increased playing time and trust from the coaching staff.
Last year, 29 of Patterson's 45 catches came in the second half of the season, as were 53 of the 77 times he was targeted. In the running game, 10 of Patterson's 12 rushes came in the final five games.
Part of his late-season success certainly comes from the fact that it took him some time to gain the confidence of the coaching staff under then-head coach Leslie Frazier. But the new coaching staff has him running regularly with the first-team offense.
"It feels kind of good working with the ones," Patterson said. "Any given day your spot can be gone so just going out there and working hard, making sure your spot is secure and compete with those guys. Just knowing you're out there, it's a blessing for me."
In two-receiver sets, Patterson has usually been paired along with Greg Jennings, with Jerome Simpson as the third receiver and Jarius Wright No. 4.
But another reason for Patterson's late-season success could have been the insertion of veteran quarterback Matt Cassel for the final five games. Cassel isn't sure exactly how Patterson will be used once the season starts, but he has seen the 2013 first-round draft pick improve in certain areas since last year.
"I think in his route-running and his ability to recognize defenses," Cassel said of Patterson's progress. "I think that's huge for him. Any receiver, as you move forward, the key component is understanding defense and how they're trying attack you and how you work your different releases.
"Obviously he's made a tremendous amount of progress from Year 1 to Year 2. I think the offseason was huge for him in terms of his progress and being able to really learn. He's still a young player. He only played a year in college. He was a year at JC and now only a year here and he played sparingly last year for us at receiver. But I think this has been a huge offseason for him to learn, to see Greg do it last year and now start to apply it more in this offseason."
Patterson has had to learn a new scheme under Norv Turner, but the way in which he is used could also change. There is more presnap motion in Turner's offense and new roles are being defined for the receivers as the coaching staff learns their strengths and weaknesses.
"It's a little tough. But like I said, I've got those older guys I'm leaning on to help me out," Patterson said. "I'm going to lean on them each day. If I don't know it, I'm going to lean on them and the coaches. I need those guys."
And the Vikings could use Patterson's emergence, for sure, to help their passing game.
Last year, the Vikings averaged fourth-tenths of a yard more per pass when Patterson was in the game. Just the threat of him on the field also appeared to help the running game. With him in the game, the running game averaged three-tenths of a yard more per rush.
Patterson said he isn't focusing on last year, but he is concentrating on his route-running this offseason. Noted route-running tactician Greg Jennings has been especially helpful in that area.
"It's coming good," Patterson said. "I've got great guys out there to help me. Every little mistake, they're telling me to improve on my routes so as long as I've got them guys on my side, it's going to be good."
Maybe even great.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Patterson primed for breakout season in 2014
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