Before Cordarrelle Patterson is anointed as the second coming of Randy Moss, it should be noted that he is trying to learn his second NFL offense in as many years, and he will likely have to adjust to a new quarterback. It should also be noted that as of last glance, he remained a very unrefined route-runner who has played mostly on instinct.
That being said, there is a lot to like about what Patterson has shown the Vikings this offseason and what he should continue to show in training camp and beyond. “Cordarrelle has had an outstanding offseason,” Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner told Bleacher Report. “He’s reacted to this opportunity like a guy on a mission. He’s really done well.”
The idea of Patterson as a potential breakout player is not far-fetched, though the idea of Patterson as a featured player in the Vikings offense may be. He is likely to be on the field a lot more than he was as a rookie, but that doesn’t mean he will be making plays like Moss. Patterson had 469 receiving yards last year, and if you take away his best game against the Ravens, he had only 328 yards in the other 15 games.
Once Patterson gets the ball in his hands, he is as good as they come. That’s why he was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie kick returner and will continue to be used on special teams. The issue with Patterson is that he’s still figuring out how to get open.
At 6’2”, 220 pounds and with 4.42 40-yard dash speed, Patterson is a very gifted athlete with rare running instincts. He played only one season of major college football and caught just 46 passes at Tennessee. If he had been a more polished player coming into the NFL, he likely would have been chosen before the 29th pick in the 2013 draft.
“Like all of these college guys, he’s had limited exposure to route running,” Turner said. “The progress he’s made as a route-runner will make a difference in the way he performs. In the spring, you can’t do any bump-and-run or press, so we have a lot of work to do in camp. But the biggest thing about him is he’s such a good runner after he catches the ball. So while he grows as a route-runner, he’s going to make a lot of plays because he has very good run instincts after the catch.”
Wide receivers coach George Stewart, one of the best in the business, spent extra time with Patterson in the offseason working diligently on fundamentals and trying to create a mindset of consistent effort.
Turner, meanwhile, has been thinking of ways to get the most out of Patterson’s abilities. In the offseason, Patterson played all three wide receiver positions in Minnesota's offense, and Turner said Patterson handled the mental aspects of moving around well. Having Patterson line up in different spots will help the Vikings get him some short, quick throws.
The plan moving forward, however, is for him mostly to play the X, or split-end position, in the offense. The benefit of this, Turner explained, is that Patterson will be away from the tight end side and the extra traffic created by the threat of running back Adrian Peterson. “The X tends to get a lot of single coverage because defenses are going to try to stop Adrian,” Turner said.
Really, the hope is Patterson, crafty Greg Jennings, field-stretching Jerome Simpson and big tight end Kyle Rudolph all can be part of a balanced offensive attack that creates multiple problems for defenses. The Vikings want to prevent opponents from loading up on Peterson, or make them pay the price for doing so.
“Adrian probably has run more plays against eight-man fronts since he’s been in the league than any guy ever maybe,” Turner said. “We’re trying to give him an opportunity not to have to do that quite as much.”
Peterson is going to remain the only featured player in the offense. Patterson, however, could become the primary beneficiary.
*Word out of Owings Mills, Maryland, is as the offseason went on, new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak became progressively intrigued with the possibility of relying heavily on two-tight end sets. The primary reason is how well Ravens free-agent pickup Owen Daniels performed in offseason workouts.
Daniels played for Kubiak in Houston, but the Ravens weren’t sure what to expect from the 31-year-old, who is coming off a broken fibula. Daniels is a similar tight end to Dennis Pitta, and the thinking is that pairing them on the field using a Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez model could create significant matchup issues for defenses.
*If the offseason workouts were an indication, the Seahawks might have hit on fourth-round pick Cassius Marsh. Part of the reason Marsh was not chosen earlier is some teams weren’t sure what he was. During his time at UCLA, Marsh was a 300-pounder as well as a 258-pounder. He played defensive tackle, defensive end and even outside linebacker. But he is precisely the type of versatile player Pete Carroll works well with.
The plan for Marsh in Seattle is to bulk him up to about 275 pounds. He is listed at 254 but recently weighed 265, a source said. And he is likely to line up as a 5-technique on first and second downs and as a 3-technique on nickel downs.
*Unless something unforeseen happens, the July supplemental draft looks like it will be a dud. At this point, the only two players in the draft seem to be New Mexico wide receiver Chase Clayton and SMU running back Traylon Shead. Clayton has a chance of being drafted late if he has a great workout, one scout said, but two other scouts were dubious about his chances of being drafted. Clayton had some success as a return man in 2012. He didn’t do much last season, though, and his career resume as a receiver is skimpy.
Shead was highly regarded at one point and recruited by Texas, but he was not very productive while at SMU. Scouts said he had ball security problems and wasn’t a consistent pass-protector. Three scouts said they expect Shead will not be drafted, but he could be brought to a camp and, if he does well, could be a candidate for the practice squad.
*The Bears are working with a sleep therapist in an attempt to maximize performance and enhance quality of life for their players. The therapist met with the team and had players fill out questionnaires about sleep patterns. Suggestions and sleep plans were drawn up for individuals. Some of the players who have gotten with the program are reporting feeling more energetic and alert.
NFL scouts are already digging in deep on the 2015 draft. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the senior offensive players scouts are saying are the top-rated prospects going into the college season.
Antwan Goodley, Baylor WR. He is a speed receiver who averaged 18.9 yards per catch, but he does not play in a traditional offense and will have to learn to run routes and get open. “It will be a transition for him,” one scout said. “But you like his speed and size.”
Tre Jackson, Florida State G. Size, strength and toughness are his outstanding qualities. “He has had success against talented players,” said one scout. According to another, Jackson would be best in a power scheme. He also could have the versatility to play center in the NFL.
Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M OT. If the 2015 draft were held today and no underclassmen were in it, Ogbuehi might be the No. 1 pick. He has played guard in the past and was a right tackle last year. This year, he is moving to the left side to replace Jake Matthews. One scout said he would not rate Ogbuehi as high as he rated Matthews, though. “He’s a good athlete, more of an athlete than a mauler,” he said. “But he has the athleticism to be a solid starting left tackle.” Another said he thought Ogbuehi will look better in a pro-style offense in the NFL.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State QB. He was a productive player last year, plays in a pro-style offense and has a lot of playing experience. But Mannion does not have the kind of skill set usually associated with a high draft pick. “He doesn’t have dynamic playmaking skills,” one scout said. Another said Mannion’s arm strength is lacking, but he praised him for his ability to get the ball out quickly. “He’s a thinker,” he said. “He’ll be good in the short passing game. He’s a West Coast offense type of quarterback.”
Nick O’Leary, Florida State TE. If he is the top-rated tight end as the draft approaches, it will be a weak tight end class. Scouts say he is more of an H-back than a traditional tight end. One compared him to Jim Kleinsasser. His best trait is his catching ability. O’Leary does not appear to have the type of speed and athleticism that creates mismatches.
Bryce Petty, Baylor QB. It’s difficult to say how much of his production is due to the offensive system, but if Petty plays in 2014 like he did in 2013, he is likely to be a first-round pick. “He is talented and has the tools to develop, but he needs to clean things up,” one scout said.
*If Pat McAfee can do what he says he can, he may succeed in hastening the retirement of Adam Vinatieri, as well as rule changes for kickers.
*Why are the Cowboys blowing kisses at LeBron James? Jerry Jones heard James scores 27 points per game, and the Cowboys could use another 27 per game.
*If Johnny Manziel were to play for the Browns as well as the Harlem Globetrotters, he would be part of the sports franchise that has induced more despair than any other and the sports franchise that has induced more delight than any other.
*Patriots DB Devin McCourty said on NESN Live (h/t NFL.com) that Greg Schiano was a yeller and screamer and a tougher coach than Bill Belichick. That set him up to be chewed out by both his former coach and his present coach.
*In the new book Sidelined, Chuck Pagano, along with co-author Bruce Tollner, explains how a bout with leukemia made him a better man and the Colts a better team. And given that proceeds for the book are going to cancer research, Pagano’s story could ultimately make the world a better place.