Cordarrelle Patterson has 'definitive step'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- On Wednesday, a once and perhaps future teammate of Greg Jennings worked out for Minnesota Vikings coaches and scouts. While there was no immediate word on the status of linebacker Desmond Bishop, Jennings did offer some unique insight into another of the most-discussed players in the Vikings' offseason sphere.

At one point or another in recent weeks, I've had a half-dozen people tell me how impressive rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has been during offseason workouts. To my untrained eye, of course, Patterson looks like a fast and energetic young receiver who can get downfield without a problem against defenders who aren't wearing pads and can't hold or hit him. So I appreciated the way Jennings, speaking to reporters on the second day of mandatory minicamp, described a subtle but important skill Patterson has demonstrated.

Jennings referred to it as "that definitive step," a decisive and aggressive move at the top of routes that Jennings considers the key to creating separation. It runs counter to the football ideal of making every route look the same for as long as possible, but for Jennings it is a reminder of what made him successful in his early years with the Packers and something he has encouraged Patterson to retain.

"I remember coming out [of college]," Jennings said, "I had that definitive step. That kind of gets washed out because everything they teach you is that they want everything to look the same. The definitive step starts to kind of fade away, but that's what creates that separation. I just told him, do not lose that. Because the more I see him do that, the more I remember when I used to do that and create so much, even more separation. I'm starting to creep that back in."

I understand why coaches would want efficiency and continuity of movement from receivers and all other positions as well. But as Jennings reflects over his career, he has come to consider it in a different light. The Vikings have asked him to serve as Patterson's mentor on and off the field, and that's what Jennings has chosen to emphasize.

"Sometimes what makes a player what he is, is the thing we try to take away," Jennings said. "It comes natural. That's a gift. You can't really teach that. He has it. And I remember, that was me. I was coming out and sticking everything. And the coaches were like, 'We just want to round it, we just want to round it.' Slowly but surely, I started rounding everything. The route still looks good, but it just doesn't have that crispness about it."

Jennings also spoke about the more obvious parts of Patterson's game, most notably his top gear. "If you see the back of his jersey," Jennings said, "you might a well stop running, because it's over."

But if you want to know what has the football professionals so impressed with him, Jennings' explanation is as good as any. He's got an "it' that not everyone has, one that Jennings has advised him to ride rather than hide.