Patterson ‘in the mix’ for various roles

Cordarrelle Patterson is “in the mix” to get some first-team looks, even if that hasn’t happened often this offseason. But his role could expand on special teams.

The Minnesota Vikings continue to say that Cordarrelle Patterson has had a good offseason, but to date he hasn’t seen many first-team reps on offense. That remains the domain of Charles Johnson opposite Mike Wallace.

Last year, Patterson began the season as a starting wide receiver opposite Greg Jennings. Now, neither of those players is a starter in purple. Jennings was released after the team traded for Mike Wallace, and Patterson has been relegated to second- and third-team reps.

Still, coaches and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater insist Patterson has improved.

“I think Cordarrelle’s had a good offseason. As I’ve said, we’ve got a good group of receivers, we’ve got a good group of guys that can contribute, can compete,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “We added to that group with Mike Wallace. I think we’re going to have a lot of guys contribute on offense and I see Cordarrelle as being one of those guys.”

While Patterson hasn’t seen much time with Bridgewater’s group on the first line of the depth chart, Turner says the 2013 first-round pick is “in the mix” to gain some first-team looks.

“He’s in the mix. I mean, in my mind he’s in the mix,” Turner said. “I told our guys, when we start games, I hope we have 16 starters. You can only put 11 on the field at a time, but if we can get where we’re playing multiple people and we’re giving defenses different looks and we have a lot of people contributing it makes it much harder to defend you.”

Last year, the Vikings finished 27th in total offense and 28th in pass offense, despite a solid season from then-rookie Bridgewater. This year, they are hoping the additions of Adrian Peterson in the running game, a retooled offensive line, Mike Wallace as a starting deep threat and Stefon Diggs as added depth will improve their efficiency and explosion on the offensive side of the ball.

Patterson will have to earn his spot in the rotation, even if he isn’t seeing many passes from Bridgewater.

“When we’re out here in practice, we have individual periods, we have periods where we get to throw routes with the wide receivers, and that’s where we develop that chemistry,” Bridgewater said. “And then whether it’s staying after practice and working on routes that we may have not thrown in practice, trying to get that chemistry down, those are some of the ways that you just try to find some chemistry with the other receivers.”

Patterson started and played the majority of the offensive snaps during the first nine games of the 2014 season, but he didn’t start any of the final seven games and played in a combined 27 of 299 snaps – less than 10 percent – over the final five games.

Still, he maintained a valuable role on special teams while lining up as a kick returner. Although his average fell to 25.6 yards per return, teams began kicking away from him, often kicking it short, to trade less-than-ideal field position instead of risking a big return.

“I thought he had a fantastic year,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “People want to say his average dropped and we didn’t score any touchdowns, but because he was such a threat back there, as you know, people wouldn’t kick to him. We’ve talked about this a lot, that our field position was outstanding. We had like 13 or 14 different guys return kicks with their spraying the ball all over the field and the main reason is because of Cordarrelle Patterson.

“And when he did get his opportunities, we didn’t score, which we could have had a couple of opportunities that we probably could have scored if we finished blocks on the backside, but at the end of the day he still had two or three really long returns called back because of penalties, where his average would have been up to 28, 29 yards.”

Even if his role remains limited on offense, Patterson will once again be called upon as the main kickoff returner. He’s also getting some looks at punt returner, although Priefer indicated that isn’t a preferred role for Patterson.

“He would rather not do it, I think at times, but I know he’s good enough to do it,” Priefer said. “He’s just got to realize that with practice and reps that he will only get better at it. He’s just such a natural catcher. His mechanics aren’t perfect, but they don’t have to be when you’re that good sometimes. We’ll keep working with him and we’ll see what we got.”

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