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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Patterson’s plan sounds good but right now it means little

By Judd Zulgad

Beware of the NFL offseason.

This statement is true on many levels. Far too often we get caught up in which team is deemed to be the biggest winner in free agency, or which club is judged to have the best draft. How many times do we base expectations on these factors, only to feel foolish by mid-November?

There is another part of the offseason that is just dangerous. That’s the interview with a player who is coming off a disappointing season, or who has disappointed in his career, and now assures us he has seen the error of his ways and is working to turn it around.

Cordarrelle Patterson became the latest member of this group last week. The Vikings wide receiver, speaking to reporters at a team-sponsored function in Duluth, made it clear he understands 2016 will be a make or break season for him.

Patterson is 100 percent correct in this. But understanding his situation, or at least claiming he does, doesn’t mean any of us should take Patterson’s words at face value.

Patterson, whom the Vikings selected with the third of three first-round draft picks in 2013 after sending four selections to the New England Patriots, has made one thing apparent in his first three years in Minnesota.

This is a guy who doesn’t get it.

Coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner saw enough potential in Patterson that he started seven games early in the 2014 season, after catching 45 passes for 469 yards with four touchdowns as a rookie under then-offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. He also rushed for 158 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns that season, with Musgrave designing plays for him.

Why didn’t Musgrave use him more as a conventional receiver? The answer to that became clear under Zimmer and Turner. That pair had the expectation that Patterson had the ability to run standard pass patterns, but it turned out they were mistaken.

Patterson didn’t get any special treatment from his news coaches and instead was benched in 2014 after making too many mistakes. He finished the year with 33 receptions for 384 yards and only one touchdown.

In his postseason press conference, Zimmer expressed optimism that Patterson would work with a mentor the Vikings coach had picked. Patterson pretty much blew it off and the no-nonsense Zimmer responded accordingly.

Patterson spent this past season as a kickoff return man who had no role in the offense. His two receptions, an embarrassing figure, were the fewest among Vikings players who caught passes in 2015.

And, now, Patterson wants us to believe it will be different.

He said he is honing his route running with Steve Calhoun, a private quarterbacks and receivers coach who has worked with San Diego’s Keenan Allen and Arizona’s Michael Floyd among others. Patterson said he had spent three days working with Calhoun and had plans to do more.

Patterson also volunteered that he would head to Miami in order to work with Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Patterson and Bridgewater did some work together last year in California but never got together on Bridgewater’s home turf in Florida.

“If I don’t show this year, it ain’t going to show at all,” Patterson said. “That’s all I can say about that.”

Patterson has millions of reasons to invest time and effort into finally making himself into a productive NFL receiver.

The Vikings will be faced with making a decision on the fifth year of Patterson’s rookie contract this spring. That deal will pay him $1.39 million but isn’t guaranteed, meaning that if he’s released before the start of the 2016 season the Vikings would save that amount in salary-cap space.

More importantly, Patterson will be playing for a second contract next season. For many first-round picks, that’s where they make big money, but at the rate Patterson is going he could either play himself right out of the league or into a contract that pays him to return kicks and nothing more.

“I’m a lot more focused,” the 24-year-old Patterson said in trying to make a convincing argument for how he’s changed.

That sounds great in February and it’s impossible not to wonder what Patterson could do if he’s serious about combining his speed and athletic ability with a professional attitude on the field.

But the regular season is seven months away and placing your faith in Patterson’s words now sets up one to feel foolish later. Ask yourself this: Is Patterson sincere in his desire to improve or is he just buying himself time before a disappointing last season in Purple?

If you elect to pick the former, you do so at your own risk.

The post Zulgad: Patterson’s plan sounds good but right now it means little appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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