Going into the 2014-2015 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings have undergone major changes, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, but their offense has as well with a new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. They’ve also drafted a new quarterback, but other than a new coordinator and quarterback (who may not even be the starter come week 1) the offense possesses a lot of the same weapons it did last year.
It’s obvious that the main focal point of the offense will be Adrian Peterson, as he has been for the past few seasons. However, there are two players every football fan will want to watch out for this season: Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerick McKinnon.
McKinnon is a “do it all” football player, having played quarterback, cornerback, running back, and slot receiver in college at Georgia Southern. The Vikings drafted the speedy, 5-foot-9 bowling ball of a running back in the 3rd round, probably for his versatility and Turner’s past success with scat-backs like Darren Sproles.
McKinnon does look a lot like Darren Sproles: short, stocky, elite NFL speed (he posted a blazing 4.41 second 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine), and the ability to do just about anything on the football field. Chances are, with McKinnon’s athleticism and versatility, we will see him on the field doing something. To start the season, McKinnon might just be used as a change of pace back to Adrian Peterson. But don’t be surprised if after the first few weeks of the season Turner increases McKinnon’s work load to include carries out of the backfield, lining up in the slot, and returning punts and kickoffs.
Although it’s hard to give offensive snaps to a 3rd round pick, I think ultimately McKinnon’s utility will result in playing time for the speedy rookie. Although he should be able to make his mark on the Vikings’ offense, I think McKinnon will need time to grow as an NFL player, especially picking up the NFL game speed.
Patterson, the 2nd-year speedy wideout/kick-returner from Tennessee, had an exciting rookie season to say the least. Not only did he tie the record for longest return in NFL history (109 yards against the Packers last season) but he also set Vikings franchise records with longest kickoff return average (32.4 yards/return) and tied Percy Harvin for the most kickoff return touchdowns in a season (for a Viking) with two.
To my dismay, Patterson was used sparingly on offense last season, ending with less than 50 catches. However, if there was one thing that I took away from the 2013 season, it’s that the self-proclaimed “Flash” can do it all.
Last season, Patterson hauled in a 75-yard+ touchdown reception, and had a 50-yard rushing touchdown. Not only can he line up on the outside, catch a screen pass and take it to the house, but he can also be put in motion, where offensive coordinator Norv Turner can get very creative getting him the ball. Patterson’s athleticism showed up all over the field last season, during which he showed his speed, quickness, and ability to evade defenders with ease.
The only knock that Flash could have received last year was his understanding of an NFL offense, and his inability to do the little things that it takes for an NFL wideout to be successful (running routes well, reading NFL defenses, and being on the same page as your quarterback) with consistency.
However, with another full off-season under his belt, I think it’s time for Patterson to make the leap from being an athletic freak to an NFL superstar. As long as there’s no trouble with the Vikings’ quarterback (whether that be Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater) getting him the ball, Patterson is poised for an even bigger sophomore season.
When Fox Sports North asked Matt Cassel about where Flash has made the most improvements from last season, he answered “I just think his route-running and his ability to recognize defense”. If Patterson can continue to improve as an NFL wide receiver, it will give the Vikings’ offense yet another weapon on top of the explosive Adrian Peterson.
Ultimately, Patterson has to be the player on the Vikings that is most likely to have a breakout season, and make a big impact on the offensive side of the ball. His speed and athleticism will leave most NFL defenses in the dust, and with his ever improving route-running and his ability to recognize defenses, he is poised to be a star in today’s NFL. He may not have his own comic books, but Cordarrelle Patterson is going to show the NFL why he called himself “Flash”.