EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Cordarrelle Patterson came to the Minnesota Vikings as a raw rookie, so there were no expectations that he’d immediately be an every-down wide receiver.
Patterson had only one season of major college experience at Tennessee, so his mastery of the finer points of his position was going to take time. Still, his limited use by an offense that has struggled through several games has raised plenty of questions for Vikings coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Finally, with Patterson coming off his first career touchdown catch, the first-round draft pick could be on the verge of a more significant role. Frazier has not spelled out the plan publicly yet, but he has hinted this week that Patterson could start Sunday at Seattle ahead of Jerome Simpson, who was charged with drunken driving.
“”They drafted me to play, not ride the bench every snap,” Patterson said. “If I start, I start. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m behind a great guy in Jerome Simpson. Me and him compete with each other just to get better.”
Patterson’s impact has been felt on special teams, with two kickoff returns for scores. His use at the split end spot has been limited, though. Simpson has been productive, leading the team with 491 yards receiving. Patterson is in the learning phase, too.
“He now knows more than just one position,” Musgrave said. “We’re mixing and matching him and trying to get him in good spots as well as featuring our other guys, too. We know Cordarrelle doesn’t have a lot of football history. Played at Tennessee, had a great year, but wasn’t even able to go through spring ball or even their training camp, so he’s done a fantastic job of catching up to speed in terms of overall football knowledge.”
Patterson was the third wide receiver taken in the draft this year, behind Tavon Austin of St. Louis and DeAndre Hopkins of Houston. But Patterson ranks 14th among rookies at his position in playing time, according to STATS research. Patterson has taken only 26.4 percent of the snaps (146 of 552) for Minnesota. Hopkins is first at 89.3 percent, and Robert Woods of Buffalo, Keenan Allen of San Diego, Terrance Williams of Dallas, Kenbrell Thompkins of New England, Marlon Brown of Baltimore and Kenny Stills of New Orleans are all at 60 percent or more.
“My route running has improved a lot. I’m not worried about the plays. That’s coming along. It’s great. I’ve got great guys. Quarterbacks, they help me out every day. I can’t worry about that. Whatever happens on the field happens on the field. We all make mistakes that you’ve just got to learn from,” Patterson said.
This would be a fitting week for Patterson to be more of a featured part of the offense, against Percy Harvin and the Seahawks. Harvin is on track to make his season debut after recovering from a hip injury, and Patterson is essentially the player the Vikings picked to replace him after they traded him, even though they have different skill sets.
“I’m me. I can’t be nobody else. Why would I want to be Percy Harvin? I’m trying to set my own standards, you know?” Patterson said. “So I come in each day just trying to get better, just being what CP can be, not what Percy Harvin can do.”
Throwing Patterson the ball might be the best way for the Vikings to take advantage of their sleek, speedy rookie. Opponents have begun to avoid from him since he returned his second kickoff for a score Oct. 27 to open the game against the Green Bay Packers. Patterson said he’s not frustrated by that, though.
“Nah, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel like they’re scared of me or they respect me back there,” he said. “That’s giving our offense more opportunity to get good field position.”
WR Greg Jennings was added to the injury report Thursday with an Achilles problem. He was a limited participant in practice. … QB Christian Ponder continued to improve, but Frazier said he wasn’t ready to declare Ponder fit to play. Ponder dislocated his non-throwing left shoulder a week ago. … DE Jared Allen was full of one-liners during his weekly media availability. One highlight, on Seattle’s noisy stadium: “It makes it fun. No offense to Jacksonville or any team like that, but you go down there and the crowd is empty, and the fans feel like they’re 100 yards away. You go to Seattle, and it’s loud.”