2016 will be Cordarrelle Patterson’s make or break year as a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings as Head Coach Mike Zimmer pointed out at a recent NFL owners meeting.
“If he wants to be something other than just a returner, this is the year he has to do it. If he wants to be a NFL wide receiver, this is the time,” Zimmer said. “A lot of guys grow up slower than others, at different times, in different stages. Guys kind of blossom in their third or fourth year. I don’t know if it’s going to happen — I hope it does, for our sake. I’m not trying to make excuses for him, but he wasn’t at Tennessee very long. There’s a lot of factors: I don’t think he was quite really ready when he came in the NFL. You’re always hoping — because he has the talent to do it. But there’s guys that do and guys that don’t. Right now, he’s right on the fence.”
Last offseason, Patterson opted not to do extra training when he had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by a Hall of Fame wide receiver. Consequently, his 2015 season was a huge disappointment after being relegated to only kick return duties. The former first-round pick caught only two balls on just two targeted attempts all season. This offseason, Patterson is taking his craft more seriously by working out with quarterback guru and route-running coach Steve Calhoun of Orange County California.
Founding the Armed and Dangerous Football Camp in 2004, Calhoun is putting his thirty-four years of experience as a player and as a coach to work by training rising young quarterbacks and wide receivers on the fundamentals and disciplines required to excel at their highest level. Keenan Allen, Cody Kessler, E.J. Manuel and Kenny Stills are just a few of the player he has mentored.
Calhoun was kind enough to speak with me recently by phone about Patterson’s offseason workouts. When I asked him if Patterson was in the coaches dog house, he said he was unaware of any issues with any of the of the Vikings coaching staff. He went on to say that he personally knows and stays in touch with Vikings assistant defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez who told him Patterson has shown a great attitude, is working hard and doing everything that is being asked of him.
I put Calhoun on the spot with my next question as well. Who is the better route-runner rookie Josh Doctson or Patterson?
“Doctson is the better route runner, but Patterson has more explosiveness.” Calhoun said. “Understand that Doctson has been playing wide receiver his entire life. Patterson, on the other hand, was limited more in high school and college with his primary focus being as a runner and returner.”
Calhoun worked with Patterson before the Vikings drafted him in 2013, and this is the first opportunity to work together since the pre-draft preparations.
“From the last time we had worked, Patterson has absolutely shown improvement. He has matured mentally, his fundamentals are better and he is hungry to play.” Calhoun added.
Applying the fundamental techniques of route-running is the training regimen that they have started which consists of multiple two-a-day filmed drill sessions and personalized evaluations. Key points of emphasis on improving stance and starts, getting in and out of routes, sharpening breaks, a focus on consistently sinking hips, identifying coverage from pre-snap and also while on the run, running routes vs man-to-man and zone coverages, understanding leverage of a defender, stemming routes vs inside or outside technique, running multiple drills for the entire route tree, and adjusting routes vs the blitz are just a few of the principles Calhoun covers in his training sessions.
Results will speak loader than words, so, I’m one fan who’s hoping Patterson’s hard work along with Calhoun’s influence will translate to production on the football field.
Head coach Mike Zimmer thinks adding another receiver is not a necessity.
“We’ve got to get better with the guys we’ve got.” Zimmer said, “and we’ve got to fix other areas that can allow these receivers to be more effective.”
At the same time, GM Rick Spielman is also doing his due diligence on just about every draft eligible pass catcher in the country.
Is Patterson on the brink of a breakout season, or will the Vikings select a first round wide receiver? I can’t answer that question, but I can say that being on the fence is certainly better than being in the dog house.
Patterson plays with emotion and character which often comes across as care-free and immature. If Calhoun can instill just a bit more discipline and consistency in Patterson’s game, maybe his incredible upside as a playmaker will outweigh the flamboyance that often comes along with his explosive talent.