Cordarrelle Patterson shows flashes in first NFL game

MINNEAPOLIS — Cordarrelle Patterson got his hands on the football for the first time in an NFL game and saw the crease open and really couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Patterson’s playmaking ability and talent running the football have been talked about often since the Minnesota Vikings made the bold move to trade four draft picks on the first night of April’s NFL Draft to jump back into the first round to secure Patterson with the 29th overall pick.

The physically imposing Patterson was a whiz as a returner at Tennessee and he was getting his first chance in the NFL on Friday. He said he didn’t expect for the hole to open like it did and he could only think of one thing.

“I thought I had it to the house,” Patterson said Friday after making a splash in his preseason debut in Minnesota’s 27-13 loss at home to the Houston Texans.

Patterson thought he was on his way to his first NFL touchdown. As dazzling as his first return was, maybe it was a lesson as defenders closed in to hold him to a 50-yard return on his first NFL touch. But Patterson showed the unique ability that has the Vikings excited for his future and maybe a capable replacement as a returner for Percy Harvin as soon as his rookie season.

All along, Minnesota believed Patterson was ready to make an impact as a returner right away. Friday he showed his progression as a receiver might not be as far off as some projected. He had a team-high four catches on eight targets for 54 yards. Sitting out the second half, he had 104 total yards.

“We felt like he was going to have a chance to be a good returner early on,” Frazier said. “We weren’t sure how fast he’d come as a receiver. For him to do what he did tonight, that’s going to help his confidence. I’m sure he’ll go back and work even harder to be more of a complete receiver. That’s exactly what you want out of a rookie playing wide receiver in our league. He’s going to be hungry coming back and we’ve just got to keep feeding him to help him to continue to grow.”

Playing with backup quarterback Matt Cassel, Patterson worked the middle of the field and even broke a couple of tackles on his first reception for 22 yards. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Patterson is tough to catch and tougher to bring down.

“He works tremendously hard, but he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s got a long ways to go and he’ll continue to work,” Cassel said.

And Patterson, who said his big-play debut did take “a lot of pressure off,” did focus on continued improvement. Even after his big debut, the flashy receiver wasn’t making any grand statements about whether this was a sign of things to come.

“You got to wait and see,” Patterson said. “I can’t say I’m going to do this and do that, and you know it don’t happen. Just look at the film, see all the mistakes I had and just grow off that.”

The biggest issue with Patterson out of Tennessee was that he was “raw” and had to improve as a receiver. As dangerous as he was for the Volunteers, many of his touches were manufactured. He would get the ball on screens, end-arounds, running out of the backfield, kickoff and punt returns.

His route-running would take time to improve. Coaches and teammates have said he’s come a long way in that regard from the summer organized team activities through two weeks of training camp.

“That’s my job,” Patterson said of proving he can help as a receiver. “I take every job I do serious. So if I can get those extra touches, I take advantage of it, either I’m on kickoff return or I’m catching a pass.”

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