NFC North: Cordarrelle Patterson

MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears the Minnesota Vikings' efforts to land another receiver named Carter will come up empty-handed.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday evening that Montreal Alouettes receiver Duron Carter -- a CFL All-Star and the son of Vikings Hall of Famer Cris Carter -- is closing in on an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts. After Carter worked out with the Vikings on Jan. 9, he said the team was at the top of his list, along with the Colts, and it's believed Carter was being offered a three-year deal with a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $100,000. That's big money for a CFL receiver, and when Carter narrowed his list down to two teams late last week, the Vikings appeared to still be in the thick of things.

[+] EnlargeCarter
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesIt appears CFL star Duron Carter, the son of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, will not be joining the Vikings.
There are some valid reasons for Carter to head to Indianapolis, though, and as you might expect, the biggest one wears No. 12. Andrew Luck directed the league's most prolific passing offense last season, and the Colts' receiver group could be in flux with Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks possibly on the way out. Carter also has a couple former college teammates on the Colts' roster in linebacker Jonathan Newsome and running back Trent Richardson. And while he'll always be compared to his father on some level, those comparisons would be much louder in Minnesota. If part of Carter's motivation was a desire to forge his own path, there's something to be said for that.

What we can draw from the process, though, is further confirmation the Vikings are in the market for a receiver. They'd stayed in touch with Carter since his rookie camp tryout two years ago, and they liked the idea of pairing him with Teddy Bridgewater. There will be other avenues available to the Vikings if they want a playmaking wideout this offseason. The team is still hoping Cordarrelle Patterson can emerge in Year 3, though it remains to be seen if he'll work in more of a specialty role than as a split end. Players like Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White could be options with the 11th overall pick, and there's plenty of talent among this year's group of unrestricted free agents. If Carter does indeed finalize a deal with the Colts -- as it appears he will -- the Vikings will have lots of other options this spring.

2015 Minnesota Vikings' draft order

December, 29, 2014
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The Minnesota Vikings will have the 11th pick in the 2015 NFL draft, and as they try to build on a 7-9 record in 2014, they might start by adding another piece to coach Mike Zimmer's defense.

The Vikings finished 14th in the league in yards allowed, and 11th in points allowed, after ranking at the bottom of the league in both categories last season. They saw impressive returns on a defensive overhaul last offseason, and if they can add a few pieces to the group they put together this season, the Vikings could have one of the better defenses in the league in 2015.

Another linebacker, as well as an upgrade at safety, could be good places to start. ESPN's Todd McShay has Alabama's Landon Collins 11th on his latest draft board Insider, and the athletic safety might be a nice fit next to Harrison Smith. Players like Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd could also intrigue the Vikings.

And then there are the questions the Vikings have to address on offense. If Adrian Peterson isn't coming back, would Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon make sense? Could Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker -- a former college teammate of Teddy Bridgewater's -- be an option if the Vikings don't think Cordarrelle Patterson will be their No. 1 wideout? The Vikings have a number of places they could look for upgrades, and they are sure to consider all of them over the next four months.
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Maybe Cordarrelle Patterson has received the message. Maybe he's understood what he needs to do to reverse the arc of a season that began with a blockbuster performance in St. Louis and ended with the receiver brooding on the sideline, while a player signed off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad and an undrafted free agent played ahead of him. In case Patterson hasn't grasped the magnitude of what happened during his second season, though, Greg Jennings wants to make sure he does.

"I've told him I want to get with him this offseason, just so he can watch himself on film," Jennings said. "Sometimes, you feel like there's things you're doing that look great, but you may be tipping your hand to different things. He does a lot of things great, but there are some little things he has to tweak in his game, to allow him to be the player we all have the expectation of him being."

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Icon SportswireFollowing a disappointing sophomore season in the NFL, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has some important offseason homework to focus on.
For his own future, as well as the proficiency of the Minnesota Vikings' offense and the development of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it's important that Patterson takes steps to make sure his third season in the league doesn't go the way his second one did. In a year that began with indications the Vikings were going to feature the receiver in their offense, Patterson saw how quickly teams will move on to other options. Right now, he's still got the investment of the Vikings' front office, coach Mike Zimmer and teammates such as Jennings, who have seen Patterson's star potential and want to make sure he realizes it. Without progress in 2015, Patterson might find there aren't as many people in his corner.

His year ended with just 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown, and Patterson carried just seven times for 15 yards after his 102-yard rushing performance against St. Louis. He didn't return a kickoff for a touchdown, and lost a fumble on one against the New York Jets. On Sunday, Patterson saw his first action as a wideout at the end of the second quarter when Jarius Wright left the game with a low back injury, and on the first series of the second half, he ran a short comeback route, couldn't hold onto a pass that Bridgewater threw slightly behind him and watched Kyle Fuller intercept the deflected pass, returning it to the Vikings' 9 until Bridgewater tripped him up by the ankles.

"[Bridgewater] had a 90 quarterback rating, and would have been over 100 if the ball wouldn't hit our guy in the chest and bounce out," Zimmer said. Later, when the coach was asked about Patterson specifically, Zimmer took a long pause to gather his thoughts and said, "I've got a plan for this offseason for him, and hopefully it works. But it's going to be up to Cordarrelle. I'll leave it at that."

Patterson left the locker room Sunday before it was opened to the media and was unavailable for comment.

Zimmer has talked about Patterson's route-running on more than one occasion, saying the receiver needs to make sure he's hitting the same depth on all of his routes so Bridgewater knows where to find him. On Sunday, Jennings took it a step further.

"Whether a ball is behind you or in front of you or ahead, it doesn't matter. If I get my hands on it, I have to make that play," Jennings said. "If the defender has a certain leverage, I have to counteract what he's doing to make it right with my quarterback. It's being honest with me; it's not looking at what somebody else didn't do.

"He gets separation, but it's what he does after he gets the separation. It's little things like that. It's something we'll watch together. It's not badgering him, because we all have that maturation process. This is a guy who hadn't played a whole lot of college football at receiver. Of course we have expectations -- I'm not making an excuse for him -- but it's going to take time."

Jennings punctuated his remarks by saying, "As long as I'm here, [Patterson] will not fail. I refuse to allow that to happen, and he has to refuse to allow that to happen." In the end, that's the key for Patterson. It's one thing for so many people to see his ability, to devote themselves to helping Patterson cash in on his talent. But Patterson is hardly the first 6-foot-2 receiver with 4.42 40 speed, and his mastery of the game's minutiae -- of running crisp routes, of baiting defensive backs -- still isn't there.

Right now, Patterson has a general manager who spent three draft picks to get him, an offensive coordinator who worked with Michael Irvin, a receivers coach who worked with Jerry Rice and a teammate who's played with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He wants to be in Minnesota, Jennings said, and he should; the Vikings have the wherewithal, and the intent, to help Patterson flourish.

But if the receiver doesn't work at it for himself, it won't matter how badly anyone else wants it for him.

"[Wide receivers] coach [George] Stewart always says, 'You don't know, or you don't care,'" Jennings said. "Almost 100 percent of the time, guys know. So that leaves, 'You don't care.' With the little things, you may not want to admit that you don't care. But if you don't put the same effort that you put into everything else, it means you don't care. He definitely wants to learn, but he has to shine."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will be without three defensive starters and an offensive lineman on Sunday in Detroit, and Cordarrelle Patterson's status is uncertain.

Barr
The Vikings listed linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) and guard Charlie Johnson (ankle) as out for Sunday's game against the Lions. Patterson, who showed up on the injury report for the first time on Friday, is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.

Patterson was returning kickoffs during the open portion of practice, which means he could have tweaked his hamstring later in the session once it was closed to reporters. He played only one offensive snap last week against the New York Jets and lost a fumble on the opening kickoff in the second half.

The loss of Barr and Floyd, in particular, might hinder the Vikings as they face the 9-4 Lions on Sunday afternoon. Detroit's offense thrives when Matthew Stafford has time to throw downfield to Calvin Johnson, and though the Lions beat the Vikings with quick passes in Week 6, Johnson wasn't on the field for that game. Stafford has been sacked 39 times this year; the Vikings can hope for another big day from Everson Griffen, but having Barr and Floyd would certainly help them generate a pass rush.

With Blanton out, Andrew Sendejo figures to start at safety next to Harrison Smith. Vlad Ducasse will likely start at left guard with Johnson sidelined, meaning the Vikings will have just two of their five preferred linemen (Matt Kalil and John Sullivan) on the field against a Lions pass rush that took Teddy Bridgewater down eight times on Oct. 12.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Cordarrelle Patterson had a "heart-to-heart" talk with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Thursday morning, he said, and while the second-year receiver wouldn't get into what the two men talked about, he said both of them wanted to meet, and added he walked away from the conversation feeling good about their relationship.

Patterson played just one offensive snap on Sunday against the New York Jets, a week after seeing only three against the Carolina Panthers, and fumbled the opening kickoff of the third quarter. He's effectively become the fourth wide receiver on a team that rarely puts more than three on the field at the same time, and Zimmer has said several times he wants to see more consistent practice habits from Patterson. Their talk, Patterson said, was an honest exchange about how things are going.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Icon SportswireCordarrelle Patterson's touches have dried up as the season has gone on.
"Just getting that talk out of the way, it makes me have less pressure on me," Patterson said. "It feels good to sit down and talk to him."

The receiver's second year in the league has been a trying one, as the Vikings have gone from manufacturing touches for Patterson to trying to get him the ball as a traditional receiver. He hasn't mastered the nuances of the split end position, and it hasn't helped Patterson's situation that Charles Johnson has emerged in the second half of the season.

Patterson said he believes in what Zimmer and Norv Turner are doing, but I thought there was an interesting point to be gleaned from Zimmer's comments about the receiver on Wednesday. Asked what Patterson needed to do to get more involved in the offense, Zimmer said, "Consistency. It’s being in the right place, doing the right things, running the right routes, blocking the right people, lining up in the right place, that’s it."

And then, as a reporter started to ask a question about linebacker Anthony Barr, Zimmer interjected, repeating a point he'd made about Patterson the week before. "Again, I want this guy to be a great player. I really do. I want him to be a great player. I don’t know when it’ll happen and I’m hoping like crazy it does because I want him to be a great player."

When Zimmer first made the point a week ago, it came a day after Patterson said he didn't know why he had a limited role against Carolina. It seemed then like he was trying to turn down the volume on the idea that there might be a rift between Patterson and the coaching staff. On Wednesday, it felt like he was making the point as much so Patterson would hear it as he was for the sake of reporters.

Whatever happens in the season's final three weeks, there's no doubt this is a critical offseason for Patterson. He needs to devote himself to mastering the finer points of playing receiver in the NFL, and come back ready to show he wants to be a great player in the league. Short of that, he could find opportunities hard to come by again in 2015.

"He kept it real with me, and I told him how I feel," Patterson said. "Just talking to him, I believe in everything he's saying."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Grade the performance of Teddy Bridgewater on a curve, if you must, since the Minnesota Vikings rookie was facing a New York Jets defense on Sunday that's allowed the highest opposing QB Rating the league this season. But considering what Bridgewater didn't have around him by the end of Sunday's game -- Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, three of the Vikings' five opening-day offensive linemen and a consistent running attack -- it's difficult to call his performance on Sunday anything other than the best of his short career.

Bridgewater
By the time he used a hard count to identify a Jets blitz and check to a screen that Jarius Wright took 87 yards for a game-winning score, Bridgewater's numbers were impressive: 19-for-27, 309 yards, two touchdowns (which should have been three) and an interception (which came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half). But it was the rookie's command of the offense that was most impressive.

He checked to a slant on a third-and-5 in the second quarter, hitting Charles Johnson for 8 yards, and threw the ball away on the ensuing play after his hard count revealed a Jets blitz. He set the edge with a block on Wright's 23-yard reverse, and two plays later, he took the ball to the Jets' 2 after Matt Asiata's motion out of the backfield cleared a defender out of the middle. On throws that traveled at least 15 yards, Bridgewater went 4-of-7 for 122 yards and a TD, according to ESPN Stats & Information; one of those was a 27-yarder to Wright after a hard count created a free play. He was pressured on 12 of 32 dropbacks, but was sacked just three times, as he moved effectively in the pocket to buy himself time.

In short, the rookie ran the offense with the savvy of a player much older than he is.

"That’s the thing that the veterans really respect and appreciate about Teddy," coach Mike Zimmer said. "(It's) the way he prepares, the way he studies, the way he cares about his job and I think the way loves playing this game."

Here are some other observations about the Vikings' offense after a film review of Sunday's 30-24 win:
  • According to ESPN Stats & Information, Matt Asiata had to get 29 of his 54 yards after contact on 19 carries Sunday, as the Vikings' battered offensive line struggled with 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson. In addition to three sacks, the defensive end stopped Asiata for 2 yards and no gain, as guard Joe Berger struggled to move the 6-foot-3 Richardson on both plays. Asiata's best run of the day was an 8-yarder, on which he gained 4 yards after contact.
  • As we mentioned, Bridgewater was under heavy pressure from a Jets defense that committed plenty of resources to the blitz; the Jets brought extra pressure on 10 of his 32 dropbacks. They sent six rushers on six plays, and seven rushers on three. Richardson's sack for a safety came when Charlie Johnson and Matt Kalil couldn't handle a stunt, and Kalil was called for holding after he fell on Jason Babin, Right tackle Mike Harris gave up pressure, too, allowing two hurries. Kalil did have a solid day as a run blocker, making a nice block on Asiata's seven-yard gain in the second quarter.
  • The Vikings continue to find a larger role for Wright, using him on the screen plays and reverses they used to designate for Patterson (who saw just one snap on offense). Bridgewater threw two other screens to Wright out of the same formation as the game-winner, handed him the ball on the aforementioned reverse and found him for 27 when his hard count drew Ben Ijalana into the neutral zone.
  • Johnson has become Bridgewater's favorite target, and his route-running shows why; he beat his man off the line on the TD, sold a downfield route before coming back to the QB on what should have been another TD pass (before Johnson fumbled) and burned Phillip Adams with a stutter-step on a 40-yard pass the receiver couldn't hold in the end zone. Johnson has dropped a couple passes in the last three weeks, but if he'd had a better grip on two balls, he would've finished his day with five catches for 143 yards and three scores.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings' 30-24 win over the New York Jets at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday:

Patterson
"I still don't think it was a fumble:" A week after he got just three snaps on offense, Cordarrelle Patterson's only touch on offense was a 6-yard gain off a pitch in the first half. His frustrating day included a pair of gaffes on kickoffs, as well; Patterson fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, setting up a Jets field goal, and bobbled his next opportunity, before returning it to the 14-yard line. The Vikings hoped Patterson would be ruled down before the ball came out, but officials upheld the on-field call of a fumble. Patterson didn't want to answer many questions after the game, but said, "I don't think it was a fumble. I still don't think it was a fumble." Coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn't lack confidence in Patterson, though, adding the two talked about the receiver's role this week.

Johnson, Blanton to have MRIs: Guard Charlie Johnson and safety Robert Blanton will have MRIs on Monday after leaving the game with leg injuries. Johnson had a walking boot on his right ankle and was on crutches after Matt Asiata fell on his ankle, but said X-rays showed nothing was broken in his foot. The guard yelped in pain after he was injured. "It was more scary at first, but I looked down and everything was straight," he said.

Vikings honor Pearl Harbor survivor: The Vikings commemorated the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor by honoring Richard Thill, the 91-year-old St. Paul native who is one of the few living Pearl Harbor survivors from Minnesota. Thill, who was aboard the USS Ward -- the ship credited with firing the first American shots of World War II -- was recognized during the second quarter. Former Vikings coach Bud Grant, a World War II veteran himself, was part of a pregame flyover in a B-25 bomber.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Charles Johnson has started the past two games for the Minnesota Vikings at split end and was on the field for all but one snap in a win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Patterson
 He's still officially listed third on the Vikings' depth chart, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said on Thursday what has seemed obvious: Johnson is the team's starting split end.

In response to a question about Cordarrelle Patterson's lack of playing time on Sunday, Turner listed Johnson's strong play as one of the reasons Patterson's role has changed with the Vikings. "CJ is playing at a high level," he said. "CJ is the starter at X [receiver]. That's the position Cordarrelle plays. We're going to do what we can to give him some opportunities to play there, but CJ's playing at a real high level right now."

Turner repeated what coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this week about the Vikings' limited role for Patterson on Sunday, saying it was due to the amount of practice time Patterson missed. The receiver, who was at a funeral for a family member of his daughter's mother, was not at practice on Wednesday or Thursday last week as the Vikings prepared for Carolina.

"Anyone that's in a situation where he didn't play last week would be frustrated," Turner said. "But Cordarrelle knows. He wasn't here all week. He missed Monday and Tuesday -- Monday, we have our meetings -- he missed Wednesday and Thursday, he was out of town at a funeral. It's hard to get ready; we have a totally different game plan for Carolina. And then you combine it with blocking two punts in the first half, and us not really having the ball. I expect Cordarrelle to play, and play like he has."

Patterson seemed unclear after Sunday's game about why he didn't play more and said again on Thursday that he would talk with Zimmer and Turner if he didn't feel his snaps on Sunday were where he wanted them. Of Zimmer, he said, "Me and Coach Zimmer, we got a good chemistry. Even though people don’t believe it. It’s tough love. We don’t show it, but we have our little talks, at the end of the day just talk to each other. Try to feel each other out. I have some people coming up this week, asking if me and Coach are best friends. I don’t feel like we’re best friends, but we’re cool enough to keep it real with one another."

The Vikings didn't use Patterson on offense until the second half on Sunday, and he only got three snaps on offense against the Panthers, as Jarius Wright played ahead of him in most of the Vikings' three-receiver sets. Patterson hasn't been part of many two-receiver sets since the Vikings returned from their bye, and while he's hoping for more playing time this week, he'll likely have to get it in different ways, with Johnson starting in his normal spot.

"I hope I get more playing time than I did last week -- only three reps," Patterson said. "That's not always good. We'll see how this week goes."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings' 31-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:

Patterson
Patterson unsure about role: A week after he injured his knee and foot on a kickoff return against the Green Bay Packers, Cordarrelle Patterson didn't play a snap on offense in the first half and saw only a few snaps in the second half on a day when he was targeted with just one pass. Afterward, he didn't seem to know why he wasn't playing and said coaches gave him no explanation for his limited role. "[I] feel like I'm 100 percent," Patterson said. "I feel like the coaches didn't feel I was 100 percent, so they decided to hold me out. I respect them for that."

Coach Mike Zimmer said Patterson missed some time for a family member's funeral this week and said his limited practice time factored into his role this week, but added the second-year receiver didn't sit for disciplinary reasons. Still, when asked about Patterson, Zimmer said, "I really like the kid. ... I think he's going to be a good player. But he continues to deal with things."

Cold weather doesn't bother Vikings: Sunday's game was the seventh-coldest home game in Vikings history, with a game-time kickoff temperature of 12 degrees and winds out of the northwest at 17 miles per hour. But a team that had played all but one of its home games indoors from 1981 to 2013 looked at home in the cold on Sunday. "I told the guys it's always a lot warmer when you win," said receiver Greg Jennings, who's no stranger to the cold from his days in Green Bay. "You're excited, your adrenaline is rolling and you're jumping around. If you're losing a game like this, that temperature kind of stings you and you almost want to quit."

Barr, Floyd leave with knee issues: Linebacker Anthony Barr, who has been dealing with a knee injury for several weeks, left the game in the second half and was replaced by Gerald Hodges. And defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who was questionable to play with a knee injury, played only in third-down situations in the first half before the Vikings took him out of the game.

Jerick McKinnon inactive for Vikings

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from TCF Bank Stadium, where it's a balmy 12 degrees and the temperature is expected to climb to a scorching 14. This should turn out to be the coldest home game the Minnesota Vikings have played since the Bud Grant era, and it will be interesting to see how quarterback Teddy Bridgewater handles his first true taste of frigid Minnesota temperatures.

One player who won't be out in the weather Sunday against the Carolina Panthers is running back Jerick McKinnon, who was listed as doubtful for the game and said Friday he wouldn't play. McKinnon, who has been dealing with a low back injury for the last two weeks, will give way to Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard and Ben Tate on Sunday.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (knee/ankle) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) will both play, as will safety Harrison Smith (shoulder). Floyd was listed as questionable Friday, as was tight end Chase Ford, who is dealing with a foot injury. The Vikings' only player missing Sunday's game because of an injury, though, is McKinnon.

Tackle J'Marcus Webb, whom the Vikings signed this week after Phil Loadholt tore his pectoral muscle last Sunday, will be inactive Sunday, meaning Mike Harris will start at right tackle.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives for Sunday:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Good afternoon, and a happy Thanksgiving to all of you. The Minnesota Vikings practiced on Thanksgiving morning, in a session that was closed to reporters (no complaints here), and according to their injury report, they were still missing four starters as they prepare for the Carolina Panthers.

Patterson
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was out again with the knee and ankle injuries he suffered on Sunday, and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd did not practice again after sitting out last Sunday with a knee injury. Coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday that Floyd would play Sunday against the Panthers; if that's still the Vikings' plan, they will likely try to get Floyd on the practice field on Friday.

Running back Jerick McKinnon sat out for a second consecutive day with a low back strain, and tight end Chase Ford was also out with hamstring and foot injuries. Both McKinnon and Ford have been playing with back and foot injuries, respectively, and both figure to be available Sunday, but we'll again have to see how the Vikings handle things on Friday.

Safety Harrison Smith returned to limited participation after missing Wednesday's practice with shoulder and ankle injuries, and three players who were limited on Wednesday -- Matt Asiata (concussion), Matt Kalil (knee) and Anthony Barr (knee) -- were full participants on Thursday.

With that, we'll return you to more substantive happenings in the NFC North today. Hope you all enjoy a safe and happy holiday, and we'll talk to you tomorrow morning.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the Minnesota Vikings' 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium:

Patterson
Patterson doesn't want to drop kickoff duties: Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was slow to get up after he was dragged down on his 42-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and sustained knee and ankle injuries on the play. But Patterson said he thought he'd be fine and added he didn't want to give up kickoff-return duties because of the injury risk. "Of course it's always risk-reward every time you get back there on a kickoff return," Patterson said. "But it's my job. Being back there, I have to take full advantage of it."

Tate active but absent in debut: Running back Ben Tate was active for his first game in a Vikings uniform but was one of two players on the Vikings' active roster not to see the field on Sunday (Christian Ponder was the other). Joe Banyard got his first NFL carries instead, running five times for 26 yards in Matt Asiata's absence. "I think Banyard had the hot hand at the time," coach Mike Zimmer said.

Loadholt to have MRI: Right tackle Phil Loadholt will have an MRI on his shoulder after getting injured in the fourth quarter, Zimmer said. Mike Harris took over for Loadholt, who didn't want to discuss his injury after the game.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It's become apparent during his second season with the Minnesota Vikings that Cordarrelle Patterson still has plenty to learn about the finer points of playing receiver. That learning process has limited his involvement in the offense when the Vikings aren't manufacturing as many touches for him as their previous coaching staff did.

Coach Mike Zimmer has said Patterson needs to be more consistent with his route-running, and pointed out how much Patterson still needs to develop when he was asked on Monday whether he was disappointed with the second-year receiver's performance.

Patterson
On Thursday, Patterson said what Zimmer wouldn't state explicitly: His second year in Minnesota hasn't lived up to expectations.

"(My numbers) been disappointing and I know I’m letting a lot of people down," Patterson said. "It’s tough. It’s very tough out here, man. It’s a struggle sometimes. Offensively, and me, just got to find that groove and just get it going."

Patterson caught 45 passes last season, but 29 of those were on passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats and Information. This season, with fewer plays designed around low-risk ways to get the ball in his hands, Patterson has just 28 catches on 59 targets, for 332 yards and only one receiving touchdown. Last week against Chicago, he caught two passes for 24 yards.

"It don’t matter what the defenses do,” he said. "This is my job. I need to find a way to get open."

As Zimmer pointed out this week, Patterson is only three years removed from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College; he played one year at Tennessee before heading to the NFL, and the Vikings' coaching change means he's learning his third offensive system in as many years. That is certainly a contributing factor to Patterson's sluggish development this season, and as the receiver said, it's turned 2014 into a year where "I'm not having as much fun.

"Coach Zimmer is right: I’ve been in three different offenses in three years. It’s a lot of learning," Patterson said. "At the end of the day, this is my job. This is something I need to just focus on, just this main job. And whatever Coach Zimmer says is right. Even though I probably won’t think it’s right, he’s the head coach and whatever he says goes."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We begin this post with a disclaimer: Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer cautioned earlier this year that we shouldn't read too much into who starts a certain game for the Vikings, since that designation is usually based on the matchups at the beginning of the game. That said, the Vikings did something with their lineup on Sunday that bears further examination, in my opinion.

For the third time this season, the Vikings kept Cordarrelle Patterson on the bench for their first offensive snap. In the previous two instances -- against New Orleans and Buffalo -- the Vikings were in their '22' personnel (two running backs, two tight ends, one wide receiver), which usually employs Adam Thielen as a blocking wideout. That wasn't what happened on Sunday. The Vikings began the game in what I'd consider to be their base offensive package -- '12' personnel, or one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers -- but Jarius Wright was on the field with Greg Jennings instead of Patterson.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Icon SportswireThe Vikings want to see more consistency out of receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
In fact, the only time the Vikings used Patterson in a two-receiver set in the first half was the one play where they lined him up as a tailback and ran a toss play. It didn't happen again until the third quarter, and by that point, the Vikings were dealing with a hamstring injury to Wright.

Zimmer has talked at several different points about Patterson's need to be a more consistent, detailed route-runner, and it's clear from how the Vikings used him when they had a healthy complement of receivers that they're having to massage his role in the offense somewhat. In our bye-week Q&A with Zimmer, he said Patterson is doing plenty of good things in practice, but it hasn't carried over to the games quite yet, at least not in a way that allows Patterson to be a consistent option for Teddy Bridgewater at split end.

Remember, when the Vikings got Patterson the ball last year, they were often running plays with the express purpose of getting him the ball; 29 of his 45 catches were on balls thrown no more than 5 yards down the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What's more, Patterson was targeted on 27.2 percent of the routes he ran last season. Only 12 receivers were targeted more frequently on their routes, and Patterson ranked ahead of blue-chip wideouts like Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery.

This year, the Vikings aren't manufacturing as many touches for Patterson; he's only been targeted on 17.9 percent of his routes, and only 13 of his 28 catches are on short passes. He's being asked to line up as a traditional split end and get the ball through more traditional means -- beating his man and getting open for Bridgewater. That means crisper, more consistent route-running, better chemistry with a quarterback and an ability to adjust routes based on certain coverages, and it's here where it's useful to remember how little football Patterson has played. He's three years removed from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, and had just one year at Tennessee before the Vikings drafted him.

"He does some very, very good things and then some things that you don't like as much. I don't think disappointed is the right word. I think youth might be right word," Zimmer said. "Sometimes it takes time with young guys. I believe that's the case with him. I believe that he's going to be a really good player, but everybody is impatient, including me, and I'm sure he is, too."

Until then, that means days like Sunday, when Patterson didn't start and caught two passes for 24 yards, are going to be more common than perhaps the Vikings would like. Patterson is being integrated into the offense as more of an all-around receiver. The fact his numbers aren't there yet is a reflection of how much he still has to learn.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Concluding our Q&A with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (here's part 1 and part 2):

What has your working relationship been like with [general manager] Rick [Spielman] and the Wilfs?

Zimmer: Really good. Really good. I don't talk to Mark and Zygi all that much -- every Monday after the game we talk, after the game, I see them and stuff like that, and sometimes before the game, but that's really about it. But they've been, with everything, anything I've asked for, they've been accommodating. Rick has been really good. We'll sit down and talk; we'll watch film together, we'll watch the game tape after the game together. It's actually been pretty easy. That part has been easy.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
AP Photo/Jim MoneCordarrelle Patterson has had problems playing at a consistently high level.
Was that a big adjustment for you -- being more involved in the higher-level stuff with management?

Zimmer: Not too much, because in Dallas, Jerry Jones was pretty involved. And then in Cincinnati, I met with Mike Brown every Monday. He was involved in all the draft meetings and everything. He was at practice every single day. It really wasn't that much different.

At least watching from the outside, it seems like your working relationship with Rick is pretty good -- it seemed like you were kind of able to say, 'Here's what I need to be successful,' and he was able to go get it. Is that how it's worked?

Zimmer: Yeah, and he's said, when he goes on the road now and looks at these college guys and stuff, even now, in watching how we play and the things we do, I think he's getting a better idea of what we need. Everything happened so fast before the draft -- getting here in January and all that, and trying to evaluate. Now, [Scott] Studwell and George Paton and Rick, when they're watching the tape and seeing how we play, the things we do and the techniques we're teaching, I think they have a good idea of that. It's never going to be 100 percent agreement on everything, but from watching the defensive players for so long, I have a good idea -- now, I'm wrong a lot, too, and we all are -- but I think the core characteristics that we're looking for in guys are easier to spot when you've been watching the tape.

In terms of getting all the pieces you need and guys that are perfect fits in your system, is it hard to expect that to happen in a year? Do you think it takes a couple cycles of player acquisition to get everything you need?

Zimmer: I don't ever look at it like that, because I think I'm a pretty good coach, and I can coach guys into doing it. Like, Josh Robinson, I think he's had a pretty good half so far. I think when guys learn the techniques we're trying to teach, they can improve. That's all I've ever tried to do, is improve players -- whoever they are, whoever we have at the time -- and then worry about the next year and figure out how we can get other guys in here. My job is to take each player and make them better every day.

You mentioned Cordarrelle [Patterson] a little bit [in your Tuesday news conference]. Is he still figuring out what you guys want from him, or is it a matter of being consistent in practice every day? What's the summary of where he's at right now?

Zimmer: It's not so much the consistency in practice, because I think he's doing a lot of good things in practice. It's maybe the consistency in the game a little bit more. That's really it -- it's being consistent, running the same route all the time, being at the same depth, running the same release, so that everybody is on the same page. That's really what it's about.

When he got here, of course, he hadn't played a lot of football. Is it something that just takes time for him to learn all the nuances of the game?

Zimmer: Yeah, and it's different for every player. Anthony Barr is coming here as a young guy that's learned a lot of things in a short amount of time, and some guys take a little bit longer. That's always how it's been. I've had some really great players that, in their third year, they start really coming on and figuring it out -- guys that have probably played more football than [Patterson] did. As long as they work, and they want to do the things the right way, and continue to do it good -- and I think he does. That's why it was good last week [against Tampa Bay] that he had some success. We've just got to keep trying to get him maintaining the consistency level.

You've mentioned you haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to Adrian Peterson's legal status. If he comes back, is it hard to put him back in the system when it's been this long?

Zimmer: I think it all depends on the guy a little bit. Each person is different. I've had a player tear his Achilles, and the first day back, he remembers everything and how to do it. And then you have other guys that will come back, and you have to re-teach their steps and technique -- everything. I think everything's different with every player.

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