Entering the 2014 season, few players were viewed as having a brighter upside than Cordarrelle Patterson. He had picked up endorsement deals. He was the talk of the NFL during the offseason as being a player in line for a breakout 2014.
Instead, things went south in a hurry. Coming off a rookie season in which he led the NFL with a 32.4-yard kickoff return average, caught 45 passes despite starting just six games and combined to score nine touchdowns (four receiving, three rushing and two on kick returns), he was expected to be the explosive complement to Adrian Peterson.
But when Peterson was removed from the team after Week 1, Patterson was one of the most impacted and it showed in a steady decline in his numbers. As he addressed the local media on getaway day for the Vikings, Patterson acknowledged that his slide coincided with the loss of Peterson.
“It wasn’t the year I wanted, like I had last year,” Patterson said. “I feel like last year was a good year for me and I felt like I was going to come back and capitalize off that. Week 1, you know, things were good. But after that, it just started going downhill. I blame myself for everything. I need to just take full advantage of the offseason and get better.”
Although Patterson didn’t feel as if he lost confidence in himself, it seems clear that Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner did. Through the first 10 games, Patterson was on the field for approximately 80 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. For the final five games, he was a part of the offense for just 9 percent of snaps. He was replaced by Charles Johnson in the starting lineup and was mired on the bench for long stretches – only seeing significant playing time when other receivers were injured.
Asked what he hopes to accomplish, Patterson stressed that his contribution to the team is going to entail becoming more of a student of the game and learning from quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Cassel to help him improve his game.
“I don’t feel it’s nothing I want to accomplish,” Patterson said. “I just want to work with Matt and Teddy and whoever in the offseason, just pick those boys’ brain and talk to Coach Turner and Zimmer and see how he wants things done in this offense and just take full advantage of this four months or whatever and just take advantage and just try to learn the offense more than I already know and, like I said, just take advantage of it.”
Veteran Greg Jennings said after Sunday’s season-ending win that he would love to mentor Patterson in the offseason and help him reach his fullest potential.
Patterson has appreciated the mentoring role that Jennings has tried to provide for him and he is looking to translate the advice Jennings gives him into more on-field production in 2015.
“I respect Greg each and every day it’s an honor to be with Greg and being beside him in that locker room,” Patterson said. “Greg says things like that, you’ve just got to take advantage of it, you know? I talk to him each and every day and just pick his brain and everything – just try to learn and do everything right. I heard Greg say he would not let me fail. You need things like that from a veteran guy and I hope that’s the case.”
Patterson’s drop-off in 2014 was alarming. After rushing for 102 yards in the season opener, he had just 15 rushing yards in the final 15 games. His receiving numbers also dropped off markedly (33 catches for just 384 yards and one touchdown).
Few star-quality players have seen a drop in status like Patterson has in 2014. He’s been demoned from starter to seldom-used backup. There has been the perception that he has been able to get this far based on pure talent, but not being the hardest worker at perfecting his craft. It’s one thing for coaches or analysts to say what they think Patterson needs to do to improve, but what does he think he needs to improve before next season?
“I would say being a receiver,” Patterson said. “I’ve always been a guy who’s just been a playmaker each and every year. Coming into the league it’s a lot of challenges, so I’ve just got to be that full, complete receiver. Some people probably don’t think I’m a receiver. Some people think I’m just a playmaker, so you’ve got to prove people wrong each and every day you wake up.”
Whether his demotion will be the wake-up call Patterson needs to tap into his limitless potential is one of the big debating points going on this offseason. Some have speculated the Vikings might look to trade Patterson if they can get the right offer in return.
Those types of sentiments are the things that Patterson believes will light a fire under him to prove his skeptics wrong and get his professional career back on the track it was heading in 2013, not the direction it is currently heading.
“I feel like you’ve got to prove yourself day in and day out,” Patterson said. “Each day, you wake up every morning, you have to prove yourself. This offseason is going to be a challenge for me, coming off a bad year like I had this year. It wasn’t as good as I wanted or fans and everybody else wanted. So this year I feel like it’s going to be a challenge just coming back, just (honing) it in trying to get things done.”
Much of that work won’t be physical. He has all the physical gifts any player could ask for. It’s going to be much more mental – spending extra time in the playbook and film study, something Jennings would like to help him with. He is prepared for the challenge of being a student of the game, but he will have a lot of proving to do and he’s committing himself this offseason to make those improvements.
“I feel like you can never know too much of the offense,” Patterson said. “I feel like you study and just keep studying. There is always something in the offense that you have to improve on. I feel like I’m comfortable with it, but I feel like there’s some things in the game I can still improve on in this offense and my game. Just take care of that.”
Six months ago, the view was that the sky was the limit for Patterson. Six months later, he is nearing a crossroads in his career where he has to take ownership of his shortcomings and work hard to correct it. To date, he has been such an explosive athlete that he was able to get by – and thrive – on physical gifts alone.
Now the landscape has changed. If he’s going to get back into being a playmaker and a factor in the Vikings offense, he’s going to have to earn his spot back. From the sounds of things Monday, that process is going to begin long before the Vikings reconvene this spring to start their offseason program.
Patterson: ‘I blame myself for everything’
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