Cordarrelle Patterson earned two first-team All-Pro nods as a kick returner during his four seasons in Minnesota, but he never developed into the offensive game-changer the Vikings hoped he’d be when they drafted him 29th overall in 2013.
Mike Zimmer accepted responsibility for that Wednesday.
Speaking on a conference call with New England reporters ahead of Sunday’s Patriots-Vikings matchup, the Minnesota head coach lamented not utilizing the full spectrum of Patterson’s skill set.
“Quite honestly, (the Patriots) are using him way better than we did,” said Zimmer, who coached Patterson for three seasons from 2014 to 2016. “Cordarrelle is a great athlete, a very, very strong runner. I think they use him in a number of different ways. It’s good to see for him. I wish we would have used him a little bit better.”
Patterson always had been used as a wide receiver, a kick returner and an occasional ball-carrier on jet sweeps and reverses, but the Patriots have found new ways to get the 6-foot-2, 228-pound playmaker the ball this season.
When Sony Michel went down with a knee injury in Week 7, Patterson became New England’s No. 1 running back for two weeks, carrying the ball 21 times for 99 yards and a touchdown in wins over the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers. He’s continued to take handoffs even with Michel now healthy, getting the call in several short-yardage situations against the New York Jets.
After rushing 44 times over his first five NFL seasons (four with the Vikings, one with the Oakland Raiders), Patterson has 32 carries in 11 games so far this season to go along with 12 receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’re getting the ball in his hands quite a bit,” Zimmer said. “He’s an exceptional, hard runner that can make a lot of big plays. He can make guys miss. He gets a lot of yards after contact. And then whether it’s throwing him the ball or handing him the ball or rocket sweeps or whatever it is.”
The Vikings lined up Patterson in the backfield a few times, Zimmer said, but they had a superstar running back in Adrian Peterson whom they were hesitant to take off the field. After seeing the way Patterson has performed in his first season in New England, Zimmer said he’ll take a different approach if he ever lands another player like him.
“Everybody’s known how talented he was,” the coach said. “We obviously knew how talented he was here, as well. But we didn’t get him the ball enough in maybe a lot of the ways that they’re using him. And honestly, since I’ve been watching him on tape, I’m going to put that in the back of my mind (so) if we ever get a guy like that again, we can use him in much better ways.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports Images