The Oakland Raiders added speedster Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency, who will surely help the return game — but his role beyond depends on him mentally.
Amidst the arrival of Marshawn Lynch to the Oakland Raiders, another potentially key offensive addition has been less talked about. General manager Reggie McKenzie elected to largely stay quiet in the hullabaloo of free agency. One signing he did make, however, was that of speedy wide receiver and return man Cordarrelle Patterson, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Patterson came into the league with a ton of hype as the 29th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Tennessee. He has speed for days and, with the ball in his hands in the open field, he’s a threat to go the distance. Without question, Patterson will be huge for the Raiders in the return game. He’ll bring big-play ability and a huge threat to special teams, surely.
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However, Patterson’s role beyond that in Oakland is somewhat up in the air. He’s not going to come close to challenging the likes of Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree for their spots. With that said, there’s potential for him to take over Seth Roberts. On physical talent alone, Patterson has the advantage over Roberts.
The story of Patterson’s career to this point, though, is that physical talent hasn’t been enough — or at least it hasn’t been enough for him to become a consistent offensive threat. Patterson’s career-high in targets came as a rookie in 2013 with 78, as did his career highs in yardage (469) and touchdowns (4). He set his best mark for receptions last season at 52. Shockingly with Sam Bradford as his quarterback, there weren’t enough big plays to get him a new mark with yardage.
So what is it that make such a talented athlete so ineffective on offense, especially when he has fine hands and has shown a proclivity for being such a big-play guy on special teams?
In truth, the battle that Patterson will fight in Oakland to get on the field isn’t with Roberts. The battle that Patterson has to win to earn time in the Raiders offense is with himself. He has to be able to put himself and his talents to use by picking up the mental aspects of the offense better than he has to this point in his career, as noted by Michael Lombardi on The Ringer NFL Show’s “GM Street”.
When you think about the differences between returning and playing receiver, you see the disconnect for Patterson. After fielding a kick or punt, you read the blocks and see the field and then make your move. It’s a 1-2-3 type of deal. Running a route tree and being a cog in the offense is much more complex. You have to see it all developing around you and pick up every intricacy of each play. That’s where it falls apart for Patterson.
Thus, the mental game is where Patterson must step up if he’s to shine. All told, that battle will be two-fold, both with Patterson working to better pick up the offense so he can play at his top speed and to his potential, and with the Raiders and new offensive coordinator Todd Downing to try and simplify his role as much as possible.
If that can happen, a competition between Roberts and Patterson is no contest at all. The latter new addition is far superior from a talent perspective. He just has to put it together upstairs so that he can add a new dimension on the field for the Raiders offense.