After a Week One performance that made it appear as if utility man Cordarrelle Patterson was ready to build on his impressive rookie season, something changed and he has been fading into the background of this Vikings team with haste.
Speculation has been everywhere regarding Patterson’s sudden dropoff in production and playing time. There have been theories about undisclosed injuries or personality issues or clashes with the coaches. The most popular theory, and the one that makes the most sense, is that Patterson is still the project we thought he was when he was drafted and that he needs to improve his route running before he can expect an increase in playing time.
The release of Jerome Simpson opened the door for Charles Johnson in Minnesota, but nobody can honestly tell you they expected Johnson to surpass Patterson on the depth chart at the time of his signing. But that is exactly what has happened and it is clear, despite public endorsements of Patterson from Zimmer, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner clearly prefers Johnson in the lead wide out role.
Patterson has opened up at times throughout this frustrating season, previously expressing that he is not having as much fun in his sophomore season, but he recently took his concerns straight to the man in charge of the Vikings roster.
“We had a good, little heart-to-heart talk this morning,” Patterson said of a meeting with Zimmer. “He kept it real with me. I told him how I feel. So just talking to him, I believe in everything he (said) and I’ll stand behind him and coach Turner. I respect everything they’re doing. Getting that talk out of the way, it makes me have less pressure on me and it felt good to go in, sit down and talk to him.”
Unless the coaching staff are hiding their true feelings about Patterson, which seems highly unlikely at this point, Zimmer is quick to reference fundamentals and the need for consistency as the key to Patterson seeing more snaps.
“Same thing (as last week), consistency; it’s being in the right place, doing the right things, running the right routes, blocking the right people, lining up in the right place,” Zimmer said. “Again, I want this guy to be a great player. I really do. I want him to be a great player. I don’t know when it will happen but I’m hoping like crazy it does. I want him to be a great player.”
As a rookie, Patterson only had 469 receiving yards, which he can surpass this season by averaging a modest 40 yards over the remaining three games. His presence int he rushing game is about the same as it was in his rookie season, as well. His production as a kickoff returner has noticeably dropped to the tune of about seven yards less per attempt.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference from last year to this one, however, is his lack of scores. As a rookie, Patterson hit the end zone a total of nine times. He caught four, rushed for three, and returned two on special teams. This year has been quite different in that respect, as “Flash” hasn’t scored since Week One.
Patterson certainly shouldn’t be considered a lost cause. He still has all of the traits that made him an attractive first round prospect two years ago, but it is clear that the new regime expects him to get better if he wants to play more, which certainly seems fair.
In the meantime, the Vikings are placing all their trust in Johnson, Greg Jennings, and Jarius Wright… and being rewarded for it.