Ever since his rookie season in 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be an explosive playmaker when the ball is in his hands. His supreme athleticism allows him to be versatile from anywhere on the field, whether that is receiving passes, taking direct snaps and handoffs in the backfield, or returning kicks.
Not long after head coach Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014, Patterson had fallen out of favor with both Zimmer and Turner. He lost his starting job to Charles Johnson and was essentially relegated to primarily being a kick return specialist – catching just two passes for only ten yards in 2015. Patterson has spent the offseason working hard to improve himself as a wide receiver and is slowly working his way back into the favor of his coaches and teammates.
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Patterson was drafted by the Vikings with the 29th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. During his rookie season he had 45 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. Patterson also added three rushing touchdowns with two kickoffs returned, giving him nine total touchdowns as a rookie. Everyone felt confident the heir apparent to Randy Moss had arrived.
Expectations couldn’t have been higher for Patterson going into his sophomore year. It wasn’t just fans who had the highest of hopes for the young wideout and his career in Minnesota. Coaches and teammates alike thought they had found the right guy. Everyone expected him to have a breakout year following his big rookie season.
Somewhere along the way Patterson failed his team and his team failed him. He got on the wrong end of Zimmer’s good side and soon became a forgotten tool on the playing field outside of his exceptional kick return duties. Patterson struggled to find a role on coach Zimmer’s team due to his poor practice ethic and indifferent route running, quickly becoming an afterthought in the offense. Many had written him off as a bust.
There is much speculation as to why Patterson has struggled. Most of it centers around his poor focus and work ethic but also his lack of ability to run the right routes and line up correctly. Patterson hasn’t put in the necessary work to succeed and it has shown both on and off the field.
For years coaches and teammates have been trying to get through to Patterson and encourage him to work harder and refine his skills. Not putting in the hard work and effort has finally caught up with him. Patterson is finding out that he has to put the hard work in now if he wants to keep his spot on the team.
There is no more just getting by. The free ride is over. This offseason the Vikings elected not to pick up the fifth-year option of Patterson’s rookie contract. Heading into the 2017 season, he will be a free agent. This has been a humbling experience for Patterson and seems to have put the future of his career into perspective.
By not picking up his option, the Vikings were sending Patterson a message. It appears he got the message as it can be seen in his work ethic and approach to the 2016 season. Patterson has a lot to play for as if he fails to perform, he could not only lose his spot on the team but have difficulty finding his way onto another one.
Patterson has admitted that he hasn’t put in the work ethic and focus he should have. He has confessed that he often took his position on the team for granted and relied on his athleticism to get by.
Patterson is finally taking responsibility for his career. His acknowledgement of his own shortcomings and failures is seen as a step in the right direction and a positive sign. It points to Patterson’s growing maturity and development as a wide receiver in the NFL.
This offseason, Patterson got himself in better shape. He worked on his route running and line positioning while building better chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Patterson is working hard to reinvent himself this year. He has attacked practices with a new found focus and work ethic:
“I just approach this whole year different than I’ve been doing. I’m a lot more focused, just trying to work on my craft—route running, getting in and out of breaks, just trying to get the timing good with Teddy.”
Reports out of OTA’s and minicamp have been encouraging. Zimmer has noticed his focus and been impressed with his improvement in all facets of his game while making fewer mental mistakes. His attitude at practice is one of determination to get better. At practice, Patterson has been praised for his work ethic, attention to detail and overall improvement. In an interview with 100.3 FM KFAN, Zimmer said of Patterson:
“He’s not making mental errors – very, very few mental errors. He’s running the routes at the proper depth. He’s lining up at the proper place. I don’t know that it’s ever been an issue with athletic ability with him, but maybe sometimes the focus – it’s like today out in practice, in stretch sometimes guys say hi to me or something and he said, ‘I’m going to get better today.’ That’s his focus now. In the past it was maybe not all about that.”
Patterson’s progress has not gone unnoticed as he has not only drawn the high praises of Zimmer, but coaches and teammates alike. Bridgewater has been impressed by the change in attitude and hard work mentality. Bridgewater has been quoted as saying about Patterson’s progress:
“Just from sitting back there throwing the ball to [Cordarrelle], he has looked good. He’s a guy that works extremely hard. Every day, he comes to work, and he has one mentality — that’s to get better. We’ve all been seeing it….But from just completing the football to him, throwing routes out there and just watching him detail his work, I’ve been pretty impressed.”
In the time between minicamp and training camp, Patterson plans to travel to Florida for two weeks to workout with Bridgewater. He may also return to San Francisco to continue his conditioning with well-known trainer Frank Matrisciano, or “hell’s trainer.” Patterson appears to be dedicated to doing what it takes to make sure his impact is felt on the offense.
Though he has excelled as a kickoff return man, Patterson is going to have to show that he is not a one-trick pony if he is to remain a valuable member of the roster. He is confident in his ability to contribute to the Vikings’ offense this year. How big of a contribution remains to be seen. It will be up to him to prove how much of role he will have in the offense.
Patterson still has a long way to go and will have an uphill battle to fight if he is to reclaim his starting spot opposite of Stefon Diggs. He will have to compete with and beat out Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, and Charlie Johnson to prove he deserves the starting role. He has the drive to excel and is determined to succeed. This could be the year everyone has been waiting for – since the end of his rookie season – and Patterson finally breaks out.