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Coach Speak: Patterson's Vision, Simpson's Importance, & Allen's All-Around Game

Posted Oct 11, 2013

The Vikings three coordinators had their customary weekly press conference on Thursday following the team’s morning walk-through. In this weekly piece, we’ll choose a comment from each of them and explain or react to what was said.

 

Question asked: Every returner is a little bit different in their style. What’s the key for him (Cordarrelle Patterson) in being able to break off the long one?

Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said: “Well, he’s a big, strong man who has great explosion. He can break tackles. He has really good vision. Better vision than I thought he had coming out of college. I didn’t think he had bad vision, I just didn’t know how good it was. His vision is pretty, pretty special. He can see things open up, he can see tacklers approaching him and what cut to make at the right moment.”

Reaction: What we can see with ease about Patterson is his straight-line speed, agility and explosion, and his strength to run through tackles. But what’s harder to see is another trait Priefer mentioned that may be as important as the rest – his vision. If you watch some of Patterson’s returns from an end zone angle, you can see the innate anticipatory skills Patterson has. It’s not always about seeing a hole open and then bursting through it. It’s about anticipating where the hole is going to be opening up and already bursting toward that area before the hole opens up. Patterson has that skill, and that’s a big reason for his success. He’s averaging 33.8 yards per kickoff return and has a 105-yard return for a touchdown, a combination of outcomes that led to him being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September. Finally, we have to recognize the blocking that’s being done in front of Patterson. It’s been fantastic this season, and while guys such as John Carlson, Rhett Ellison and Joe Webb aren’t mentioned much when talking about Patterson’s ability as a returner, they are an important part of the picture, too.

 

Question asked: With the energy that Jerome (Simpson) has brought this entire season, what kind of difference has that made for this offense?

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave said: “We need a healthy and productive split end in our system. With the runner that we have in Adrian (Peterson), we get a lot of strong safety invert, a lot of eight-man box. The split end is one-on-one back there on the back side, so the better he can be, the better our offense operates.”

Reaction: Basically what Musgrave is saying is that because the Vikings are so good at running the football, teams come into games prioritizing stopping the run. The secondary objective is likely to contain one or both of Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph. This leaves Simpson with, as Musgrave termed it, a lot of one-on-one matchups on the back side, or on the opposite side of the formation as the tight end and the other receiver. Simpson has won a lot of these one-on-one matchups and the Vikings quarterbacks have recognized this, which is why Simpson is off to the best start to a season in his career with a pair of seven-catch, 100-yard games already. The question now is: Will teams adjust to try and cover up Jerome more frequently, or will the Vikings continue to get one-on-one opportunities for Simpson? We’ll begin to find out this Sunday against Carolina.

 

Question asked: Have you been pleased with how he’s (Jared Allen) been able to play the run and the pass and maybe not just the tunnel vision “I’m going for the sacks all year.”

Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said: “I wouldn’t say he’s ever had tunnel vision. Jared’s done a good job of making sure he’s keyed in to playing both and letting his keys take him to where he’s supposed to be. Jared’s a smart ball player, he knows football, and we trust him to play both and read his keys.

Reaction: There’s no questioning Allen’s ability as a pass rusher. No one has more sacks than him since he entered the NFL in 2004. But I have indeed noticed an improvement in Allen’s game vs. the run this season. He’s always been a very good all-around player, but this year he’s been making more plays against the run. That shouldn’t be a surprise, either. Of course he prefers to rush the quarterback and accumulate sacks, but he also knows that if he and his defensive teammates do a good job against the run on early downs, that will lead to the opposing offense facing more 3rd-and-longs, which leads to more and better opportunities for sacks. Allen has been one of the best defensive players of his generation, and the fact that he has the most sacks of any player in an era that has seen the passing game become more important than ever speaks to his value and his place in NFL history.