The Vikings status at wide receiver was one of several topics that General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Zimmer covered as guests this week on Pro Football Talk Live with Mike Florio.
GMs and head coaches have joined owners at a resort in Boca Raton, Florida, for a series of discussions that included changing seven rules Tuesday.
The meetings wrap Wednesday, two weeks after the start of free agency and less than a month before Vikings players are scheduled to return to Winter Park for the start of the team's offseason workout program.
Florio asked the Vikings personnel and coaching leaders about the release of Mike Wallace and what Minnesota might do at receiver moving forward.
Wallace had 39 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns in his one season with the Vikings. He was released and opted to sign with Baltimore.
Zimmer mentioned several returning players as options to share the slack (click here for the full interview).
"We still think Charles Johnson can do those things," Zimmer said. "Stefon Diggs, who had a good rookie year, I think he's going to improve this next year. Jarius Wright, and we're hoping Cordarrelle Patterson finally gets it on the right track. He's got to be more disciplined, he's got to be more specific in his routes, be more disciplined in where he lines up so that quarterbacks can trust him."
Diggs led Vikings receivers with 52 receptions for 720 yards and was second on the team in touchdown catches (four) behind tight end Kyle Rudolph's five. Wright added 34 receptions for 442 yards, followed by Adam Thielen (12 catches for 144 yards) Johnson (nine for 127) and Patterson (two for 10).
Patterson led the NFL in kickoff return average (31.8 yards per run back) and was the only player in the league to take two kickoffs back for touchdowns in 2015. He and the Vikings, however, might look for more on offense in 2016.
Patterson had 45 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie in 2013 and 33 for 384 with one score in 2014.
"I think he wants to prove to everybody that he wants to be a receiver, and this is the year that he's going to get the opportunity to do that," Spielman said. "There's no question about his ability and to me, he's the best kickoff return specialist in the league right now. We just have to see if we can get it out of him at receiver."
Spielman echoed Zimmer that a consistent focus on the "nuances of being a receiver" could benefit Patterson and the Vikings (click here for Spielman's full session with Florio).
"You can't just rely on your tremendous athletic ability, your tremendous speed," Spielman said. "You have to hone in your skills on the technical part of the game, and I think as he's matured, he's finally realizing that. I know this offseason he's been working extra hard, and I think he'll have a point to prove when he comes back."
While attending Polaris-Vikings Winterfest in Duluth last month, Patterson talked about his change in approach this offseason that included reuniting with Steve Calhoun, a trainer that Patterson worked with before the 2013 season. Calhoun's clients include Rudolph, Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd and Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.
"I just approached this whole year way different than what I've been doing," Patterson said. "I'm a lot more focused, and I'm just trying to work on my craft, getting in and out of breaks and trying to get the timing good with Teddy [Bridgewater], trying to get the timing and pattern down-pat."
Spielman and Zimmer said they appreciated what Wallace brought to the Vikings in providing leadership to a young position group.
"We haven't added any additions to date, as a veteran in that receiver group," Spielman said. (We) feel there's some candidates coming out in this year's draft in different points in the draft where we'll be able to address that, depending on what's on the board when we pick, but we feel like we have some young guys in a couple of years that are going to step up and take that role."
Takes on two other topics:
On the addition of guard Alex Boone through free agency:
Zimmer: "One of the things [I liked] was his toughness, the physicality. I like his demeanor, and I'm hoping some of that rubs off on the rest of our offensive line."
Spielman: "I think that's one of the areas we really wanted to address and there were a couple of opportunities during the free agency period, that's still going on, but to get some guys we felt would fit our culture but also bring that presence that Coach Zimmer is looking for. We didn't have any doubt that Alex Boone would bring that."
On the status of talks with linebacker Chad Greenway, currently a free agent who has expressed interest in returning for an 11th season (the Vikings also have brought in Emmanuel Lamur from Cincinnati and Travis Lewis from Detroit via free agency this offseason):
Zimmer, who said, "I think so," when asked if Greenway will be back with the Vikings: "We still have to work out the contract negotiations and all those things, but I love Chad and his leadership and the way he is and what a competitor he is. We'll see how it goes. That's not really my decision. It's between him and management right now.
Spielman: "We signed a couple of linebackers to compete on the weakside. We're still in the process of hopefully getting Chad Greenway back, and then we'll address that potentially in the draft as well."