If Cordarrelle Patterson can go back to doing what he did in the second half of his 2013 season, he could give the Vikings a spark on offense that could have a lot to do with their success in 2016.
Patterson remains an outstanding kick returner, but on offense the wide receiver has yet to duplicate what he was able to do as a rookie, and he was nearly invisible last year.
It’s surely a make-or-break year for the No. 29 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of the University of Tennessee, who can be an unrestricted free agent after the season. But he had an uneventful preseason, and there were some who thought that he might not even make the squad.
Still, in the season-opening victory at Tennessee last Sunday, not only did he provide a big spark with a 61-yard return after the Titans took a 10-0 lead, but he also was a contributor on offense. He ran 8 yards on an end-around for a first down on one drive that led to a Blair Walsh field goal, and he also caught a 6-yard pass on another drive that ended with a field goal. Patterson played only five snaps, but look for him to see a lot of action Sunday night against Green Bay.
Patterson, 25, was due for a $7.9 million salary in 2017, so it wasn’t surprising when the Vikings declined that option in May. But he has a chance to prove his value and potentially get an even bigger contract if he can be an impact receiver this season.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked what he has seen from Patterson and what he expects from him this season.
“I think he’s going to have a good fall, we’ll find out,” Zimmer said. “It’s really up to him. He has an opportunity. We have a plan to use him and things we want to do with him, and what he does with it from there is up to him.”
More than special teams
Patterson remains one of the best kick returners in football. He had 32 returns for 1,019 yards and two touchdowns last season.
“I love returning kicks. that’s my bread and butter, man,” Patterson said. “If I’m having a bad day I go back there and return a kick and feel like my day will be better.”
But the Vikings clearly expect more for $7.9 million than a top kick returner.
Ameer Abdullah, as a rookie running back for Detroit, led the NFL in kick return yards last year with 1,077, just in front of Patterson. But Abdullah also had 143 carries for 597 yards and 25 receptions for 183 yards, scoring three touchdowns on offense. He made $755,659 on the first year of his rookie deal, and his four-year contract is worth just $4.16 million.
Patterson, in comparison, had only four touches on offense in 2015, catching two passes for 10 yards and rushing twice for 15 yards. As a rookie, he caught 45 passes for 469 yards, ran 12 times for 158 yards and scored a total of nine touchdowns (four receiving, three rushing and two on kick returns).
“That’s nothing I can really say,” Patterson said of his lack of snaps on offense. “That’s something you have to ask Coach Zimmer. If I get a lot of snaps I do, if I don’t I don’t.”
Add to that the transition at quarterback after the injury to Teddy Bridgewater, meaning all the receivers are going to have to quickly adjust to Sam Bradford whenever he takes over for Shaun Hill. But at the same time, there should be ample opportunities for Patterson to make plays if the offensive coaching staff gets innovative until the team can get settled.
Routes take precedent
During the preseason, Patterson talked about what he worked on the most this offseason.
“Running routes. You know, I spent a great amount of time running routes,” he said. “I feel good right now and I want to continue to do that each and every day.”
Asked if he believes he has been improving, he said: “I’m trying to, each day is a grind. Each day coming out and working with those guys and trying to get better.”
Patterson said he believes he has the basic framework down to play and be productive, and that’s why he has been focusing on the routes and timing.
“We all play receiver, that’s something we do, we run, catch the ball, and that’s what receivers do,” he said. “You just have to make sure you have great timing with your quarterback, being in the right spot when they call your number, and just make a play.”
While it would be easy to think that Patterson might not be happy with his situation in Minnesota, when asked if he wanted to stay, he didn’t hesitate for even a second.
“Of course I want to stay,” he said. “This is where I got drafted. I’ve been here almost four years now. Why go somewhere else and learn new things when you can stay here and grow from here?”
Does Patterson believes he gets unfair criticism?
“I think we all do,” he said. “It just depends on how you handle it. I feel like I handle it greater than anybody else, that’s just my opinion. But there’s always going to be someone who talks about you and says things about you, it’s just how you handle it.”
This will be a big year for Patterson, but it’s clear he feels ready to prove his worth to the Vikings.
• There are rumors around Kansas State that when 76-year-old football coach Bill Snyder retires, former Gophers coach Jerry Kill will succeed him. But Kill insists his coaching days are over.
• When Mike McCarthy took over as Packers coach in 2006, Green Bay trailed the Vikings in the all-time series 44-45-1. But McCarthy has dominated the Vikings, going 15-5-1.
• One big reason the Dallas Cowboys are listed by Forbes as the NFL’s most valuable franchise at $4.2 billion is that their stadium has held some major events outside of Cowboys games. The Vikings are listed at $2.2 billion, and that’s up 38 percent from 2015 because of U.S. Bank Stadium. Look for the stadium to continue to elevate their value.
• The Vikings released defensive end Letroy Guion after the 2013 season. He was picked up by the Packers and has started 21 games since, including this year’s season opener.
• Quarterback Shaun Hill has started only once vs. the Packers over his long career. That was a 28-26 loss at Lambeau Field while he was with the Lions in October 2010.
• Though the Twins are trying to avoid 100 losses, all their farm teams had winning seasons. Class AAA Rochester went 81-63; Class AA Chattanooga went 75-65; Class A Fort Myers went 70-68, and Class A Cedar Rapids went 78-61. Cedar Rapids was the only one of those teams to win a playoff spot, earning a wild card in the Midwest League playoffs, where the Kernels swept two games from Wisconsin in the first round before losing a series to Clinton last weekend.
• The Twins have had a top-two pick in the MLB draft five times overall, but they failed to sign the pick the first two times, Tim Belcher (No. 1 in 1983) and Travis Lee (No. 2 in 1996). Both went on to long big-league careers but never played for the Twins. In 2000, the Twins drafted Adam Johnson No. 2 overall, but he was a bust. The other two top-two picks are on the team now, Joe Mauer (No. 1 in 2001) and Byron Buxton (No. 2 in 2012).
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org