Breaking Down Cordarrelle Patterson's Success as Vikings' Kick Returner

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2013

Cordarrelle Patterson scored his second return touchdown of the season against the Packers Sunday night.
Cordarrelle Patterson scored his second return touchdown of the season against the Packers Sunday night.

Amid the many disappointments this season for the Minnesota Vikings, there has been at least one bright spot—rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.

Fairly or not, Patterson will always be compared to Percy Harvin. Patterson was drafted a month after the Vikings traded Harvin to Seattle. Both were drafted in the first round and joined the Vikings following their junior season. 

/Getty Images

In his only season at the University of Tennessee, Patterson did it all; he caught 46 passes, ran the ball 25 times, and returned four punts and 24 kickoffs. He led the Volunteers with 1,858 all-purpose yards and scored 10 touchdowns. 

So far this season, Patterson has not fully filled the vacancy left by Harvin's departure. With only 13 receptions in seven games, he has not been a big part of the Vikings' offense.

But he has exceeded Harvin in one category—kickoff returns. He leads the NFL with 39.1 yards per kickoff return.

That's saying a lot considering Harvin owns the Vikings' franchise record with five kickoff returns for a touchdown in four seasons. He set the single-season mark with two returns his rookie season of 2009. 

Comparing the kickoff statistics over the first seven games for Harvin and Patterson shows that Patterson has started more quickly than Harvin.

Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Percy Harvin: 1st Seven Games
Percy Harvin2368629.82
Cordarrelle Patterson1870339.12
Pro Football Reference

Patterson has more yards on fewer returns for a greater average. During Harvin's rookie season in 2009, the kickoff took place from the 30-yard line, giving Harvin more opportunities to return a kickoff.

This season against the Panthers, in a 35-10 loss, Patterson did not get even one chance to return a kick. Carolina kicker Graham Gano put all six of his kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback.

With nine games remaining and the Vikings' defense yielding 32.1 points per game, Patterson should have plenty of opportunities to break Harvin's record and get at least his third kickoff return for a touchdown.

Here's a look at Patterson's two touchdowns and what he does so well.

In Week 2 against the Bears, Patterson took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.

As the Vikings lined up to receive the ball, Patterson was deep and in the center of the end zone. The Vikings positioned five players in a box in front of him.

Robbie Gould kicks the ball halfway into the end zone on the left hash mark. As Patterson catches the ball, the blockers in front form two two-player walls in front of him, with the fifth player moving to the middle of the field.

All Patterson has to do on this play is find the gaping hole in front of him. Once he does, all he needs to do is make Gould miss him—which he does easily.

Gould tries to make a diving tackle and winds up with an armful of nothing.

After that, all Patterson has to do is run a 70-yard dash for the touchdown. As he approaches the goal line, he high-steps it for six. Patterson needed only 13 seconds to score.    

Patterson did a very good job of letting his blockers set up and then following their lead. He quickly found the open lane and used his speed to go 105 yards untouched for the touchdown.

Here's a look at this second touchdown against the Packers.

This time, the Vikings put six blockers on the 45-yard line and only use four blockers in front of Patterson.

Patterson follows Toby Gerhart down the middle of the field as the two blockers on his left form a two-player wall.

Again, Patterson does a great job of letting his blockers set up. He finds the opening and doesn't hesitate.  

After hitting the opening, he shifts quickly to his right and avoids one tackle.

Then Patterson avoids another potential tackler from the right by stepping out of the tackle before he can wrap up Patterson.  

Now it's just a matter of outrunning punter Tim Masthay. 

Again, Patterson only needs 13 seconds to run the length of the field and score a touchdown. 

He does a great job of not over-rushing his blockers, giving them time to engage in a block and provide a running lane. 

He wastes no time jumping into the running lane and then uses his size to run through tackles and his speed to outrun the opposing kicker or punter. 

Now if only the Vikings would find a quarterback that can throw him the ball. In 2009, Harvin had Brett Favre