EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Cordarrelle Patterson has been the Minnesota Vikings receiving leader through two preseason games with six catches going for 73 yards, accelerating the belief Patterson might be able to help the team early in his rookie season.
Patterson has been one of the few offensive highlights in the preseason for Minnesota, but each of his six receptions has come from backup quarterbacks. Patterson has connected with Matt Cassel five times and third-stringer McLeod Bethel-Thompson once.
Patterson has not worked much with starter Christian Ponder and the first-team offense, but will get his chance in Sunday’s third preseason game. Second-year receiver Jarius Wright has passed concussion testing after suffering a concussion in last week’s game, but won’t travel to San Francisco for Sunday’s game as the team holds him out for precautionary measures.
Instead Patterson should receive more time with the first-team offense and Ponder.
“Just continuing to progress as a young wide receiver in our league,” Frazier said of what he hopes to see from Patterson. “He’ll get a number of opportunities. “We had that planned anyways. This will be a little more action for him, and watch him keep progressing.”
Ponder’s only pass to Patterson in a game was a rushed attempt in the first quarter last week that sailed wide. Meanwhile, Patterson debuted with a team-high four catches in Week 1 of the preseason for 54 yards and added two catches for 19 yards last week.
Patterson was considered raw as a receiver when Minnesota drafted him in the first round out of Tennessee and wasn’t considered a detailed route-runner because of his inexperience. He played only one year of major college football with the Volunteers after transferring from Hutchinson Community College.
His versatility at Tennessee allowed coaches to get the ball in his hands in different ways and use his strengths as an open-field runner. Patterson has demonstrated good hands in training camp and has come along in the technical aspects of the receiver position.
“He’s done very well when it comes to learning our offense,” Frazier said. “I think last week, he had zero errors, mental errors, so that was great for his second opportunity in an NFL game to come out with the number of snaps that he had. So that was really encouraging for all of us. He’s done very well with adapting and adjusting to our offense.
“We haven’t had to put together just a Cordarrelle package. He’s been able to adjust to everything we’ve put in to this point.”
Henderson held out, but will play: Linebacker Erin Henderson, who had his heel stepped on during practice Thursday, was held out Friday — but Frazier said he will play Sunday.
“(He still has residual) soreness, so we decided to hold him back,” Frazier said. “(Sunday, he’ll be) full-go unless he tells us it’s bothering him. At this point, we think he’ll be full-go.”
Left guard Charlie Johnson didn’t practice Friday and is still away from the team while dealing with a family matter. Frazier said Johnson is expected to play in Sunday’s game. Jerome Felton (appendectomy) and Sharrif Floyd (knee surgery) are still out of practice while coming back from surgery.
Roster cuts looming: Sunday’s game will be especially important as Minnesota looks to trim its roster with two separate cuts coming next week. The Vikings will need to trim to 75 players from the current 90-man training camp roster by Tuesday at 3 p.m. On Aug. 31, following Thursday’s final preseason game, Minnesota needs to get down to the 53-man final roster.
The Vikings have already had meetings to discuss how they want to shape the final roster and how many players at each position they might want to keep as they decide between players.
“(We’re deciding) the amount of repetition that we give guys in this ballgame and having a plan for the final preseason game,” Frazier said. “(It’s) a lot of discussion about who we need to see, how many snaps we need to see them, and yet you’re trying to balance what you need to get out of your starters as well in this ball game.”
One position Minnesota will need to decide on is running back, with Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and fullback Jerome Felton set. The Vikings have Matt Asiata, who was on the team last year, Joe Banyard, Bradley Randle, Jerodis Williams and fullback Zach Line still on the roster competing to stay and trying to earn the third running back spot.
“It’s a good competition between those guys,” Frazier said. “Matt Asiata, he’s been with us for a while. He’s done a good job for us, but Joe had a nice run last week against Buffalo. Bradley has done a good job for us, so we’ll see how it plays out. We’re going to give those guys some reps Sunday night, along with our final preseason game as well and try to make a decision, a good decision.”
Webb’s time at quarterback not a consideration: Joe Webb is still trying to make the final roster after moving this offseason from quarterback to receiver, but the coaches have made it clear Webb is only being evaluated as a receiver.
“No, not really a factor,” Frazier said about whether his experience at quarterback could help him make the roster. “It’s more about can we determine that he has the potential to grow into a good wide receiver and be one of the guys we can count on at that position.”
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked Thursday about using Webb in an emergency situation at quarterback in a game.
“I would say anything’s possible, but that’s a lot of speculation here in the middle of August,” Musgrave said. “But Joe has played quarterback; Joe has played wide receiver. We’d have to go to our contingency plans if we ever got into that state of affairs.”
Webb will get a good look in the final games to decide whether he can stay on the roster as a receiver.
“I think he’s made tremendous progress,” Frazier said. “He still has a lot of work to do when you consider the amount of time he’s been at the position, but he’s made a lot of progress and we’re going to keep giving him opportunities in ballgames just to try to ascertain how much further he’ll jump, but he’s done well in the amount of time that he’s been there.”