GM believes inexperience hurting Patterson

Rick Spielman believes there are a few factors at work with Cordarrelle Patterson’s slow start.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman calls Cordarrelle Patterson a “very unique athlete” but acknowledges there is room for improvement.

When Patterson joined the Vikings last year as the last of three first-round draft picks, he wasn’t used much in the first half of his rookie season, much to the dismay of fans who wanted to see his immense athletic talent used immediately. Former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and former head coach Leslie Frazier preached patience with the rookie receiver, and eventually he earned a regular spot in the offense and appeared to be on his way to becoming an impact player.

One year later, Patterson hasn’t yet truly emerged into that consistent talent the Vikings envisioned. Spielman points to Patterson’s youth when asked for his assessment on the receiver who played only one season of major college football at the University of Tennessee.

“This is another junior that came out, played one year, six months at a major college, learned a new system last year and is learning a new system this year,” Spielman said. “He’s a unique athlete and I know Norv (Turner) and (receivers coach) George Stewart are putting in extra time and working extremely hard, and Cordarrelle is putting his time into it. But these young guys, they just have to learn the nuances of the games. I know coach (Mike) Zimmer has talked to you guys about these growing pains some of the young guys go through. And they do – they learn, they click. But it does take time and you have to be patient in that process.”

Last year, Patterson went 11 games before he caught more than three passes in any one contest and had only one game with 100 yards or more. This year, he has only three games in which he has caught more than three passes and has yet to reach the 100-yard mark.

Patterson and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater have had several missed opportunities, including one that stuck out last game when Patterson was wide open 40 yards downfield and Bridgewater overthrew him.

Bridgewater admitted he simply missed on a throw he should have made better and Patterson admitted to some frustration over his missed opportunities.

But whether talking about that missed deep opportunity or the failed chances in general, head coach Mike Zimmer said Patterson hasn’t been precise enough.

“It’s nothing between the two – it’s they’re not precise enough,” Zimmer said last Monday, admitting that there is something missing between Patterson and Bridgewater. “… We’d love for (Patterson) to be involved but there’s – guys have to make sure that they’re in the right places more.”

That was the knock on Patterson last year, too, but Spielman sees the potential in Patterson and believes he has made big strides.

“He’s night and day from where he was a year ago as a route runner,” Spielman said. “But still, OK, you saw flashes of that in the Tampa game in some of the things he was able (to do) and some of the unique plays in the Tampa game. I think that’s just got to continue to come. There will be peaks and valleys in what we go through with him and all of these young guys as they continue to progress. I know they’re being coached very hard that those peaks and valleys will balance out and they’ll become more consistent.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Patterson has caught only one of seven passes directed his way when he is 20 yards or more downfield, and only four of 11 passes between 10 and 19 yards.

But of those 18 passes thrown his way when he is 10 or more yards downfield, he doesn’t have any drops, according to Pro Football Focus, which would portend that his route running and Bridgewater’s inaccuracy downfield are both to blame, not Patterson’s hands.

If that part of the offense can improve in the stretch drive, the Vikings and Patterson might both be able to find some success in the passing game.

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