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Spielman Interested In Patterson's Growth At Training Camp

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —With the 2016 Verizon Vikings Training Camp just days away, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is looking forward to seeing how a number of position groups progress in Mankato.

Spielman told Vikings.com that he's interested in watching the wide receivers group, especially Cordarrelle Patterson.

The fourth-year player had two catches for 10 yards last season but excelled on special teams by leading the league with a kickoff return average of 31.8 yards and was the only player in the NFL to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.

"The one player that everybody is asking about is Cordarrelle Patterson," Spielman said. "There's no question about his ability with the ball in his hands, he's probably the premier kickoff returner in the league.

"When he gets the ball in his hands on offense, everyone holds their breath because that's a big play waiting to happen," Spielman added. 

Spielman noted Patterson had a strong spring in integrating himself in the offense and made a handful of highlight catches during offseason practices.

"Where Cordarrelle has made tremendous strides this year is on his route running ability and becoming a better receiver," Spielman said. "He is very tuned in and very focused trying to prove to everybody, including himself, that he's going to be not just a great athlete with the football in his hands, but a true receiver in the NFL."

Patterson is one of five Minnesota receivers who is returning from last season.

Stefon Diggs led the team in catches (52) and yards (720) as a rookie in 2015. Spielman said Diggs has continued to improve this spring.

"Stefon Diggs had a great rookie year, and that has continued through our offseason program," Spielman said. "He looks even more confident understanding the offense, running routes and making big plays down the field."

Jarius Wright is back for his fifth season in purple, and Charles Johnson is healthy after a rib injury hampered his 2015 season.

Adam Thielen also returns as a multi-faceted player on offense and special teams.

"Adam Thielen is a kid who's just a football player," Spielman said. "If you ask him to play receiver and make a play, he does it.

"If you ask him to play special teams and make a play, he does it," he added. "He's just invaluable to this football team for the role that he provides."

A pair of rookie receivers will also be in the spotlight in Mankato.

The Vikings made Laquon Treadwell the 23rd pick of the first round when they selected him out of Mississippi.

View the best images of the wide receivers from the Vikings' offsesaon program.

Spielman said he likes what he saw this spring from the big-bodied Treadwell.

"Our No. 1 draft pick this year, Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss, has had an outstanding OTA and minicamp," Spielman said. "He's still learning the offense a little bit.

"Everybody criticized him because of his speed, but his body size and his radius to catch the ball has shown up in these OTAs," he added. "I think he's going to make a significant difference for this group."

German-born Moritz Böhringer is a sixth-round pick with an interesting backstory. He became the first player drafted directly out of Europe without first playing college football.

"He has tremendous physical talents, but he is a little raw in learning how to run routes," Spielman said. "He's learning an NFL playbook … but he has a lot of raw natural ability that our coaches love to work with. We're excited to see how far he comes."

The Vikings will bring 11 total receivers to training camp, which opens Friday.

"Our receiver group is going to be very competitive," Spielman said. "We are very young at that position but also very talented not only from a speed aspect but from an athletic standpoint as well."

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