Patterson ‘just another guy?’

Cordarrelle Patterson continues to be used as a backup on offense.

Cordarrelle Patterson wasn’t targeted and didn’t catch a pass during the Minnesota Vikings’ 28-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys Saturday, yet head coach Mike Zimmer saw signs of progress.

Patterson was on the field for 16 snaps.

“I think he’s continuing to work, continuing to get better,” Zimmer said of Patterson. “I think last week was a better game for him. Even though he didn’t have any catches, it was a better game for him than the week before. He’s just another guy that we can use.”

The Vikings were clearly hoping for more than “just another guy” when they selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Initially it looked like he might live up to it after biding his time in the final year of Bill Musgrave’s offense in Minnesota. However, Patterson lost his starting job last year to Charles Johnson and barely played on offense in the final six games of the season, the first for the Vikings under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

So far this preseason, Patterson has been targeted eight times, catching five passes for 43 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown. But in practices he is still running with mainly the second-team offense with Johnson, Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright clearly ahead of him. Adam Thielen is probably even with him. Rookie Stefon Diggs could be pushing him.

“He’s an exceptional player,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said after Saturday’s win. “Whenever the ball is in his hands he’s going to make something happen and that’s why they call him ‘Flash.’”

Getting him the ball consistently has been an issue. He missed an audible in the third preseason game, running the wrong route, which contributed to an interception for backup quarterback Shaun Hill.

Patterson still holds value for the Vikings, even if he isn’t used as much offensively as he was in his rookie season or the start of last season. He continues to be a dangerous return man, inflating his return average to 52.3 yards on three attempts in the preseason after taking one 107 yards for a touchdown on Saturday. That puts him second overall for return average in the NFL’s 2015 preseason to date and first among players with multiple returns.

Like Patterson did after Saturday’s game, Zimmer credited the blockers on the touchdown return.

“We continue to do a good job in our return game, kickoff returns and punt returns – we’re doing a good job blocking, not getting penalties, creating seams, things that Coach (Mike) Priefer is trying to teach those guys,” Zimmer said.

Patterson may be “just another guy” in the receiving game until he can fully be relied upon for the right routes. For now, it appears he will have to earn his way back into heavy usage on offense while providing a threat in the return game.

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