Vikings use more WRs, more Patterson

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
5:10
PM ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Those of you clamoring to see more of Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson might be in luck. From the way the Vikings set up their offense on Thursday night, and from what coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday, Patterson could be a larger presence in the offense the rest of the year.

He played 21 of the Vikings' 53 offensive snaps against the Redskins on Thursday -- his highest percentage of the season -- and was on the field for 26 of the Vikings' 72 snaps last Sunday against Dallas. In the Vikings' last five games, Patterson has played at least 30 percent of their offensive snaps, and on Thursday night, he did it as part of a larger emphasis on multiple-receiver sets.

The Vikings used all of their receivers for at least 17 snaps on Thursday night. The only times they had used all of them that much earlier this season was in lopsided losses to Carolina and Green Bay, but in most cases, the Vikings hadn't put them all on the field together. In fact, the team had used a four-receiver set for just four snaps all season before Thursday night, and only debuted its five-receiver set last Sunday in Dallas for three snaps.

On Thursday night, though, the Vikings went to a four-receiver set twice, and a five-receiver set another four times, as part of an effort to combat all the eight-man fronts teams throw at them to stop Adrian Peterson. Rather than loading up on blockers -- and inviting more defenders into the box -- it seems the Vikings have decided to give teams something else to think about. They've only run out of a four-receiver set twice, but with Peterson in the backfield, it's always an option.

"With all of the eight-man boxes that we get -- and we haven’t been as good blocking them or getting movement as we have in the past -- it’s kind of opened some things in the passing game for us," Frazier said. "So if it’s working, you continue on."

The change comes precisely as teams are kicking away from Patterson, who has two return touchdowns already this season, so the Vikings might be realizing that they'll have to get the ball to him more often as a receiver. He scored his first touchdown as a receiver on Thursday night, catching a two-yard scoring pass from Ponder on a crossing route.

Frazier said on Friday the Vikings have brought Patterson along about as quickly as they could, though it's worth noting the coach said in Week 3 that Patterson needs to be on the field more often. To date, Patterson has played only 124 offensive snaps -- the 10th-most among rookie receivers -- according to ESPN Stats and Information, which either means the Vikings have been more conservative than they'd expected with their offensive packages or Patterson hasn't picked things up as quickly as they might have hoped. The concern on Patterson coming out of Tennessee was that he might struggle to pick up an NFL offense, though it wouldn't be beyond the pale for the Vikings to go the conservative route with him, either.

In any case, Frazier is saying the Vikings plan to use their receivers more often, and that could give Patterson more opportunities to make an impact. We'll see if that plan comes to fruition.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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