FOXBORO, Mass. — Cordarrelle Patterson might not be a complete receiver, but boy, is he an exciting one.
Patterson, whom the New England Patriots traded for this past spring, showcased his big-play potential in Thursday night’s 37-20 preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
His stat line didn’t jump off the page (seven targets, four catches, 51 yards, one touchdown), but watching him gave the impression that, if used properly, he can be a formidable offensive threat for the Patriots this season.
Midway through the second quarter, Patterson caught a screen pass from Tom Brady outside the left hash, turned upfield and sprinted past several Eagles defenders. He made it all the way to the 1-yard line before being pushed out of bounds, but officials ruled he had stepped out at the 40, forcing him to settle for a 23-yard gain — the Patriots’ longest of the game.
Patterson’s most impressive display came later in the game, though.
Five minutes into the third quarter, the 27-year-old speedster caught another screen, this one from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, and found himself face to face with Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones. One lightning-quick juke later, Jones was lying flat on his chest while Patterson hurdled over the goal line.
Patterson went on to burn Jones deep on the Patriots’ next offensive snap, but Hoyer underthrew him, resulting in an incompletion.
“I thought he did a great job tonight,” Brady said after the game. “He’s so dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands, and obviously, over the course of his entire career, that’s the way it’s been. He had a good touchdown there. He almost had the one at the sideline that I threw it to him, but he’s done a great job.”
The knock on Patterson throughout his time with the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders was that he’s nothing more than a gadget player — a one-trick pony who can rip off the occasional big play on a screen pass or jet sweep but whose route-running deficiencies prevent him from becoming a reliable target. He’s lived up to that reputation so far during his brief time with the Patriots, making acrobatic catches in practice on a near-daily basis but rarely seeing significant reps with Brady and the first-team offense.
But with his freakish athleticism and Josh McDaniels’ creative offensive schemes, Patterson doesn’t have to fit the Patriots’ usual receiver mold to torment defenses, as he showed Thursday night.
“He’s done a good job,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s been out there every day. He works hard. He’s a talented kid that’s made a lot of plays on the practice field. He made some plays in the game. Again, we’ll just keep going and build on the positives. There’s some things that need to be refined, but he works hard on those, and hopefully, those come together.”
Patterson also has the distinction of being one of the NFL’s premier kick returners, though the Patriots curiously have not used him in that capacity of late.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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