EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In his first two preseason games with the Vikings, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has shown plenty of promise, returning his first kickoff 45 yards and catching a combined six passes for 73 yards. The first-round pick, though, has yet to catch a pass in a game from starting quarterback Christian Ponder.
That could finally change on Sunday night, when Ponder is scheduled to play into the third quarter of the Vikings' third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Wide receiver Jarius Wright will stay home from the game after sustaining a concussion last Friday in Buffalo, even though he has been cleared to return. And with Wright out, Patterson could get more time with the Vikings' first-string offense on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday that the Vikings want to get "more turns" for their receivers with Ponder on Sunday night, and that probably means they'll use a deep rotation of wideouts while Ponder is in the game. It would be surprising, though, if they don't take a long look at how Patterson can handle a more prominent role in their offense.
He has shown a firmer grasp on the Vikings' playbook than many expected he would after just one year of major college football; coach Leslie Frazier said Patterson graded out with no mental errors in the Buffalo game, and Frazier added the Vikings haven't needed to simplify any of their plans for the receiver.
Patterson might step in as the Vikings' most explosive receiver and has shown how productive he can be on crossing routes early this preseason. If the Vikings feel comfortable enough to feature him early in the season -- and if he can develop enough of a connection with Ponder to hit on some big plays -- Patterson could have a significant effect on the team's ability to capitalize on the attention defenses pay to running back Adrian Peterson.
How Patterson works with Ponder will definitely be worth watching on Sunday night. The Vikings believe Patterson could be a star, but the next step in that process is connecting with the quarterback in an actual game. That makes Sunday an interesting test of what the receiver can do at this point.