Lately, not as much.
He still has the ability to flash his Flashy smile and still carries around his Bluetooth speaker banging out an eclectic variety of tunes.
But success has been hard to find for the second-year receiver loaded with talent and rawness in his routes. The NFL adage is that it takes three years to develop an NFL receiver and three years to judge a draft pick.
So far, the Vikings – and Patterson – had better hope the light comes on and the stats accelerate like he can on the field. Patterson, for all his ability, has been a letdown this season. The reasons could be many, but the numbers are there, plain and paltry, for all to see. It’s a fact he admits.
“They’ve been disappointing. I know I’m letting a lot of people down,” Patterson said. “It’s tough out here, man. Offensively, we’ve just got to find that groove and just get it going.”
Coaches continue to talk about Patterson’s youth and how he is still learning and developing in his routes. But, quite frankly, the Vikings knew this was a possibility when they traded back into the first round of the 2013 draft to make Patterson their third first-round pick last year.
In the second half of his rookie season, he looked like a star in the making. This year, he is in danger of going into a shell if he is unable to break out of the funk he and the passing game simultaneously find themselves in right now.
General manager Rick Spielman said earlier this month that the media has been “killing” Patterson. Maybe, but there is no denying that the front office had greater hopes for Patterson, too.
“This is another junior that came out, played one year, six months at a major college (Tennessee), learned a new system last year and is learning a new system this year,” Spielman said.
All that is true. Patterson played junior college at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where his jersey was retired this year during the Vikings’ bye week. He spent one year at Tennessee before the Vikings drafted him. Last year, he was learning Bill Musgrave’s offense. This year, he is learning Norv Turner’s offense.
Still, for an athlete as naturally talented as Patterson, there has to be more production than 59 targets, 28 receptions, 332 yards and one touchdown through 10 games of his second season in the league. An average of 2.8 receptions and 33.2 yards per game?
Of course, the changes in the franchise haven’t helped him. In two years, he’s been through four different starting quarterbacks, two head coaches, two offensive coordinators and two offensive schemes.
With the 29th-ranked passing offense this year, there should be more production from the Patterson-Teddy Bridgewater connection. There hasn’t been. All there has been is promise.
“Throughout the course of the week in practice, whether it’s on the deep ball or a route underneath coverage, Cordarrelle and I, we’re developing that chemistry and we’ve been making improvements throughout the course of the year,” Bridgewater said.
Maybe that’s true in practice, but Vikings brass and coaches also continued to offer hope that Christian Ponder was developing behind the scenes, but the proof is in the game-day production.
Like Ponder with the Leslie Frazier staff, the new coaching staff is making the same claim with Patterson on the practice field: it’s coming, we see the signs, he’s improving.
“We’re going to continue to be patient with him and keep teaching him and keep working with him and try to get him to where he needs to be in all of those areas,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He does some very, very good things and then some things you don’t like as much. I don’t think ‘disappointed’ is the right word, I think ‘youth’ might be the right word.”
Patterson is 23 years old. He’s been through two offseasons in the NFL and now through seven months of Turner’s offense. The talent has always been there; the production has been scattered, at best.
Spielman said Turner and receivers coach George Stewart are “working extremely hard” and Patterson is “putting time into it,” but said Patterson is learning the nuances of the game.
“I just need to focus in – go out and play ball and have fun like last year,” Patterson said. “I was having a lot of fun last year. This year, it seems like I’m not having as much fun as last year. I just need to find that little missing piece and have some fun.”
Patterson rightly wants to have fun, but he also said “you can’t take it too seriously.” For all the attitude that they brought, Cris Carter and Randy Moss did take it seriously. They were among the hardest workers at their craft when the Vikings offense was flying high in the late 1990s.
Friday, there was an encouraging sign. Bridgewater took his plate over and sat next to Patterson’s locker while having lunch, which appeared to be a calculated attempt by the mature rookie to build a bond with the second-year receiver.
The best-case scenario is that the Vikings’ patience with Patterson pays off and he and Bridgewater are the battery that energizes the offense out of its doldrums in short order. The worst-case scenario is that this is just another case of preaching promise that never reaches its potential production.