Throughout the first half of the 2013 season, the 2-7 Minnesota Vikings have failed to properly use first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, an electrifying wide receiver and return specialist.
In Week 11, though, Patterson could finally get his opportunity to make plays on offense.
Following Jerome Simpson’s arrest on two counts of drunken driving, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier told the media that he could be benched in favor of Patterson. Simpson is expected to play on Sunday against the 9-1 Seattle Seahawks, but might be forced to play in a backup role.
If that is the case on Sunday, Patterson will get the first start of his NFL career.
So far this season, the Vikings have severely underutilized the explosive receiver, giving him a measly 150 snaps through nine games. Despite his limited playing time, Patterson has hauled in 18 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Although his yardage isn’t spectacular, Patterson has suffered from poor blocking on numerous screen passes. He’s still managed to force six missed tackles while picking up 88 YAC yards on the year.
His biggest impact, though, has come in the return game.
Serving as the Vikings’ primary kick returner, Patterson has amassed 845 yards on 24 returns for a league-high 35.2 yards per return on the season. He also has two kick return touchdowns, including a 109-yarder that broke the NFL record for the longest kick return in league history. His two kick return touchdowns are more than the rest of the league put together.
Put simply, Patterson is lightning in a bottle.
If the Vikings do start Patterson on Sunday, Christian Ponder would be wise to get him the ball early and often against an elite Seahawks secondary. Seattle will be focusing on slowing down Adrian Peterson and the run game while lining up top cornerback Richard Sherman on No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings, which could leave Patterson to work against backup Walter Thurmond III.
It’s far from an ideal matchup, but could still give Patterson his first opportunity to put his dynamic playmaking abilities on display. That is, if Frazier opts to bench Simpson.
We’ll see on Sunday whether or not the Vikings finally give Patterson a chance to earn his first-round status.