Coming off a 7-9 season that saw a marked improvement from the defense and the emergence of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater under the guidance of first-year head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff, the Vikings are going in the right direction. While the 2014 season produced reasons for promise, there are also reasons to expect more in 2015.
View the top 30 images of Vikings wide receivers from the 2014 season.
Atop the list of aspects that left fans wanting more was the performance of WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Coming off a rookie season in 2013 that saw him instantly become the NFL's best kickoff returner and eventually saw him emerge as a dynamic offensive threat, preseason expectations wound up dwarfing in-season results.
But there's good news for 2015. "Flash" is poised for a big jump in 2015. Here are three reasons why.
1. Finally, some familiarity with the offensive systemThis offseason will be the first time in four years that Patterson will work within the same offensive system as the season prior. He's gone from a junior college program, to the University of Tennessee, to the Vikings with Leslie Frazier/Bill Musgrave, to a second season with the Vikings under Zimmer/Norv Turner. Finally, Patterson will be in the same offense for consecutive seasons, and that will provide him the opportunity to use past experiences to prepare for future opportunities.
2. With wide receivers, it takes time (ask Demaryius Thomas and Roddy White)Patterson certainly isn't the first receiver to be taken in the first round who took a couple seasons to fully hit his stride and start profoundly impacting games on a regular basis. The chart below illustrates the performance of two recent first-round receivers – Roddy White (No. 27, 2005) and Demaryius Thomas (No. 22, 2010) – in comparison to Patterson (No. 29, 2013).
While many are quick to point out that Patterson's 2013 season fell short of expectations, it's interesting to note in the left-hand side of the chart that Patterson's first- and second-year production was superior to that of White's (an eventual four-time Pro Bowler) and in line with that of Thomas' (a three-time Pro Bowler). In the right-hand side of the chart, the third-year production is illustrated. Can Patterson duplicate the significant increase in production that both Thomas and White authored? Only time will tell. But through two seasons, Patterson is right on pace.
3. Mike Zimmer is a fixer, and he has a planDid you like how Zimmer fixed the defense in 2014? It's hard not to. You can be sure Zimmer will take the same laser-focus approach to helping Patterson progress as a player. The following is quote from Zimmer during his introductory press conference last January after being hired:
"I do think I am a fixer and I do think I am an observer. If guys are doing things correctly, there is no issue whatsoever. I have told my players many, many times before we have had a bad game, 'Here is what I do. I fix stuff. I am going to go out and I am going to fix this.' They all trust that I can get it fixed and so that kind of is what my personality is."
And this is a quote from Zimmer's season-ending press conference last week on Patterson:
"I talked to someone today about Cordarrelle, about working with Cordarrelle, about getting those two guys together. Somebody that I trust, somebody that I think would be a great influence for him and I'm not going to talk about who it is. That's part of the thing that I said last week about I have a plan for him, but we're not allowed to coach him (until the offseason program begins), that's partly why it's up to him. I think this would be good for him and hopefully he will follow through and get to where he needs to get to."