First-round castoff Patterson could be new secret weapon for Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Let Cordarrelle Patterson explain the process of absorbing the Patriots playbook, which has a reputation in NFL circles as advanced-level stuff.
“There’s going to be something each day that you don’t know and you thought you knew,” Patterson, a recently obtained would-be dynamo in the Patriots’ universe, told reporters during the minicamp last week. “You wake up, and it’s something different. ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’
“You only know what you think you know.”
In another time, place and sport, Patterson might have been tight with Yogi Berra. For now, it’s a matter of connecting with other legends, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, which could determine whether this immensely talented player emerges as a key X factor for New England, his third home in three years.
Patterson, 27, is well established as one of the NFL’s most lethal kickoff-return threats, evidenced by two firstteam all-pro selections. He owns the longest kick-return touchdown in the NFL record book (109 yards). And with a radical rule change for kickoffs looming — players covering kicks can no longer begin with a running start, and space will conceivably open up as eight players must be aligned within a zone 15 yards from the kickoff — Belichick might have pulled off a coup in landing Patterson.
“To have a guy like Cordarrelle, there’s nobody like that in the league,” Matthew Slater, the special teams captain and a perennial Pro Bowler, told USA TODAY. “It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, but there are no guarantees. We have to lay the foundation, each and every day in practice. It’s not just going to happen.”
Belichick has never hidden his rich appreciation for the flip-the-field impact of special teams. And the value he sees in Patterson (obtained from the Raiders in a deal that included a swap of late draft picks) is also reflected with a $3.25 million cap figure.
Yet for Belichick to strike ultimate gold, Patterson would also have to carve out a significant role within a crowded group of receivers in an offense armed by Brady and coordinated by Josh McDaniels. In five NFL seasons, including his first four after the Vikings claimed him as a first-round pick from Tennessee, Patterson was unable to prove himself as a reliable, consistent target despite tantalizing flashes that include explosive plays in the run game.
Last year with Oakland, Patterson scored twice off gadget runs (including a 47-yard jaunt). For his career, he has six rushing TDs, five kick-return TDs and seven receiving TDs — the type of versatility you’d imagine would spin the creative wheel in Belichick’s brain.
That’s why Patterson, in my opinion, is the most intriguing new player in New England’s camp, even with the presence of promising first-round running back Sony Michel. Patterson, who remained on the field with Brady, Julian Edelman and a couple of others to get extra work for about 10 minutes after Wednesday’s practice, still has tremendous upside bolstered by raw talent.
“My film don’t lie,” Patterson teased. “I can do whatever I put my mind to. That’s something I’ve been blessed with from the man above since I’ve been born.”
Whether he maximizes his talent will largely depend on learning the unforgiving playbook and gaining Brady’s trust, which in turn would force Belichick to find ways to deploy him.
Patterson sounds willing to go with the flow, saying, “You’ve got to know your role and embrace it.”
Is he poised to raise the bar on that? “You’ve got to ask Belichick about that,” he said. “I hold myself accountable for everything. Each day, I give it my best.”
And that could lead to opportunity, especially with Edelman facing a fourgame suspension.
Belichick typically doesn’t offer thick compliments about new players, especially at this early stage. Yet after acknowledging the importance of the learning curve for Patterson shortly after the trade in March, he seemed relatively pleased with this week’s progress.
“All the players that have been here this spring have improved and worked hard to make progress,” Belichick said. “He’s certainly in that group. Glad we have him. He’s good to work with. He’s a talented player.”
Which just might add up to a huge reward for the Patriots.
Cordarrelle Patterson has twice been an all-pro as a kick returner.