When the New England Patriots acquired Cordarrelle Patterson via trade in March, we were hesitantly optimistic they would be able to use him through creative means.
The Patriots exceeded our lofty expectations with Patterson by using him as a pure running back for two games, when he piled up 21 carries for 99 yards with a touchdown. As we expected, Patterson mostly was used sparingly on offense this season, despite the Patriots’ wide receiver woes.
Of 1,119 offensive snaps, Patterson was on the field for just 230 of them (20.55 percent). Patterson got considerable production per play, however, averaging 2.1 yards per offensive snap. His previous career high was 1.4 yards per play in 2013, his rookie season.
Patterson was inactive in the Patriots’ regular-season finale with a knee injury suffered in Week 16 but he didn’t miss a single practice. By the time Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers rolls around, he will have had three weeks to nurse the knee injury.
Even if Patterson takes on a limited roll on offense and his usual kick-return duties, it would be valuable to have him on the field against the Chargers.
Good things tended to happen when Patterson got his hands on the football. He finished the season with 21 catches on 28 targets for 247 yards with three touchdowns and 42 carries for 228 yards with one score. He also returned 23 kicks for 663 yards with one touchdown.
He was especially impressive for a ball-carrier, averaging 4.07 yards after contact. That ranked sixth in the NFL among running backs and receivers with at least 20 carries, according to Pro Football Focus.
Patterson also ranked sixth among skill-position players with at least 20 targets in passer rating while targeted. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a 141.8 passer rating while throwing to Patterson.
Patterson’s ability to run with and catch the football add a degree of unpredictability to the Patriots’ offense. And if the Patriots wanted to show a new wrinkle to catch the Chargers off guard, it’s likely Patterson would be involved given his athleticism and play-making ability.
With Josh Gordon suspended, Patterson will share wide receiver duties with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. It’s unlikely he’ll receive many carries out of the backfield since Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White are healthy, but it would be an upset if Patterson doesn’t receive at least one jet sweep handoff against Los Angeles.
If you were expecting Patterson to be a 60-catch receiver for the Patriots this season, then you were destined to be disappointed with his production this season. But there’s a reason Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer praised the Patriots last month for how they used Patterson. They played to his strengths and made the most out of his limited snaps on the field.