February 28, 2024

Vols in the pros: week seven

Is Cordarrelle Patterson on the verge of breaking out? Check out his road back to becoming a starting wide receiver and which former Vol was ejected Sunday.

Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright at Vikings Training Camp 2014. Photo by Matthew Deery.

Overall, it was a rather quiet week for Tennessee alumni in the NFL. Although, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson put in another solid performance.

After catching only four passes in his previous 20 games, the former Vol has recorded at least four receptions in each of his last three contests. After a strong rookie season in 2013, Patterson slowly became an afterthought in the Minnesota offense over the next two seasons. What changed this year?

It began in the offseason, as he caught the eye of coach Mike Zimmer with his improved focus and productive offseason work, “He’s not making mental errors — very, very few mental errors.” Coach Zimmer also noted his motivation, saying, “Sometimes guys say ‘hi’ to me or something and he said, ‘I’m going to get better today.'”

The improvements this offseason translated into the regular season. He recorded only two receptions in the first three games, but in the third game against the Panthers, Cordarrelle added a job to build his role on the team.

He began playing on the punt team as a punt gunner — the player who specializes in running down the ball or the returner — and no exaggeration, he may be the best punt gunner in football. He’s maintained that role since, and has already caused a muffed punt and stopped multiple inside the five-yard line. Including Sunday, where he made an excellent play to pin a punt inside the two.


Not only is this important because of the impact he’s already made, but the old Cordarrelle Patterson may not have been accepting of this role. When asked if the receiver would have accepted this a year ago, Zimmer said, “probably not.”

He went on to say, “I think he wants to play. He wants to do everything he can to get on the field.”

The coaching staff has rewarded him with an increased role in the offense. Fans know of Patterson’s abilities in the return game, making him one of the best special teams weapons around the league.

With an increased role in the offense, would the former Vol be able to prove in his contract year that he’s an NFL-caliber wide receiver? Over the last few weeks, the Vikings have done a good job designing plays for Patterson that work to his strengths.

Using mainly screens, this allows the receiver — who remains somewhat of a limited route runner — to have a chance to create something in space. In addition, Patterson’s route tree has consisted of mainly comebacks, drags and post routes. He’s seen at least six targets in each of the past three games, and those 19 targets have resulted in 17 receptions for just under 150 yards and two touchdowns. His first, against the Texans in week five, may have been his most impressive catch of his young career, exhibiting a catch radius and ability to catch in traffic that most didn’t know he was capable of.

He also caught a touchdown in garbage time Sunday on a well-run post route, while hanging on to the ball as he took a vicious hit to the head. Although the majority of his production came at the end of a game that had already been decided, he still finished with seven catches for 67 yards and that touchdown catch.

After two straight weeks with a touchdown catch and seeing over 50 snaps on Sunday, Patterson has solidified himself as a starting wide receiver for Minnesota. This could just be the beginning of a breakout 2016 campaign.

It’s been a thing for a few weeks now, but if you haven’t already, hop back on the CP train. For the rest of the Vols in the NFL, no one player stood out. Although one did for the wrong reasons, here are a few worth mentioning.

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs S 

The former Vol standout had a solid performance Sunday, finishing with eight total tackles, including one stuff in the backfield. In addition, he deflected a pass which was then intercepted by teammate Daniel Sorensen and returned for a touchdown. Berry continues to be one of the most consistent safeties in the NFL, and Sunday proved no different.

Malik Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars DT

Unfortunately, Jackson makes this list for less than ideal reasons. After a rather quiet day on the field, he was ejected in the second half after receiving his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game, this one being for arguing with officials. After a respectable beginning to the season, Sunday against the Raiders will be a game to forget for this former Vol.

Justin Hunter, Buffalo Bills WR

After consecutive weeks of scoring touchdowns, Hunter was held out of the end zone, but still hauled in two of his four targets for 25 yards. Due to injuries, he remains a starting wide receiver for the Bills and saw a season high 53 snaps on Sunday. As long as he’s starting, Hunter remains a decent red zone option for Buffalo.

Tony McDaniel, Seattle Seahawks DT

Did anyone stay up for the horribly amazing Sunday night game? It was a beautifully played defensive game, but comically bad in all other aspects. The Seahawks defense was on the field for over 46 minutes, and only gave up six points. That’s insane. The lone Vol on this unit, Tony McDaniel, played a season-high 50 snaps and recorded three tackles.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Matthew Deery, courtesy of creativecommons.org

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