There was never any question about Cordarrelle Patterson’s athletic abilities. When he was drafted three years ago, he was considered “raw,” meaning the potential was there if he took to the teaching.
For years, it seemed like Patterson was relying mostly on his natural abilities but needed to work on the finer points of technique and learning and applying the playbook.
After three years in the NFL, Patterson has established himself as one of the best kick returners in the league but still hasn’t been much of a factor as a receiver. He laughed, perhaps nervously, at the notion that 2016 could be a “make-or-break” season for him.
“I don’t know. I know what I can do. I just need the opportunities, man. The opportunities, I’ll get the most out of them,” he told Viking Update. “Make or break or whatever, if it’s a make or break, then that’s what it is. If that’s what it is, then I hope it’s going to be a great year.”
As a rookie, Patterson got 47 touches on offense – 35 catches and 12 rushes – then 43 in 2014 and last year a paltry four offensive touches – two catches and two rushes.
The coaching staff had seemingly lost confidence in him, putting him on the field mostly for rushing plays. This year, he says, they have a plan for him. He has to prove he can execute that plan consistently on a play-by-play basis. In the past, coaches and teammates have said he isn’t always where is supposed to be.
“My focus is when I get my opportunity, just make the most of it. I feel like I trained the best this offseason and I feel like there were a lot of things I had to do – route-running for one and just focusing on attention to details,” he said. “When coach calls something, like a play, make sure you know everything – where to line up, your assignment. Just trying to focus in. Sometimes being out here after these long days you can lose focus. I’ve just got to key in on things they tell me their doing and do them right.”
Patterson wouldn’t say unequivocally that knowing all the plays was a problem in the past, but …
“I mean, we have a lot of stuff. I feel like every guy knows what they’re doing, but there’s a lot of stuff being thrown at us. We do a good job of taking it, not just me but everybody,” he said. “I feel like that wasn’t a struggle, but things happen, man. I’m not even looking back right now. I’m looking forward and trying to see what’s going on and what’s the story ahead of me.”
He appeared to take his job more seriously this offseason, working on route-running with a coach in California before joining quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the other receivers for a session in Florida this offseason.
“There were guys that were (giving) attention to details, just the little things – getting in and out of your breaks and just focusing on the ball. Just the little things,” he said. “Little things will take you a long way in life.”
In two weeks of organized team activities, Patterson is getting some work with the first-team offense, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he can see a difference in Patterson.
“Yes, he looks a whole lot different. We were just talking about that in the meeting rooms as a unit, the defensive back room. We were like, ‘Man, this guy is different.’ He runs routes better. He’s catching the ball – he’s never had a problem catching the ball, but he definitely looks different. … He’s going out there and making plays,” Munnerlyn said.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1674427-offensive-tackles-shuffli... “He’s doing a great job of switching it up on you. Normally, CP, he knew one speed, he was just coming at you full speed and he would chop down and break. This time, he knows how to lull you to sleep a little bit and then he’ll turn on the burners. He’s just doing different things. It’s kind of messing the DBs up a little bit, but at the same time I told him, ‘Man, you’re running some great routes. Just keep it up, keep working and then when we get to the month of July don’t backslide. Just keep doing what you’re doing and get better.”
The Vikings had to expect some of the early struggles after drafting Patterson at the end of the first round in 2013. He had played only one year of major college football, at Tennessee, before declaring for the draft.
However, he said this week that wasn’t really a problem, but indicated that having four different schemes in four years – at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, at Tennessee, under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in his first NFL season, then Norv Turner in his second – were challenges.
“Each year, I feel like I had a different coach, different offensive coordinator, and I wasn’t really a guy just to run routes. I was just out there to be out there and I wasn’t really paying no attention,” he said. “Now, I’m steady, I’ve been with these coaches for a couple years now and I’ve got a great receiving coach, Coach (George Stewart). Just trying to learn from them each and every day.”
To date, Patterson’s first season in the NFL was his most successful. Munnerlyn said it can be easier for receivers in their first year. After that, defenses know what to expect.
“It’s about what you do in Year 2,” Munnerlyn said. “He didn’t do well in Year 2 and he kind of fell off a little bit, but at the same time it kind of woke him up when they didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. Now he’s back working and he’s ready to roll.”
Patterson sounds like he intends to prove it this year, and the coaching staff is giving him more of an opportunity, but actions will ultimately speak louder. If he can prove it consistently throughout the offseason, Turner said, then he has a chance to be more involved.
“I feel like people know what I can do,” Patterson said. “I’ll show it, man.”