Cordarrelle Patterson is the Raiders secret weapon nobody is talking about.
With five kickoff return touchdowns since 2013 (albeit one of those in the Black Hole) and a 2016 NFL-best kickoff return average of 31.7, he’ll immediately help give Derek Carr the best starting field position of his career.
The Oakland Raiders head into their 2017 campaign with a very promising offensive attack. They’ll be led by a 2016 MVP candidate in Carr and arguably the NFL’s best offensive line, which will be anchored by 2016 Pro Bowler nominees Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson. The stable of versatile running backs is headed by hometown favorite Marshawn Lynch and two sophomore backs that averaged over five yards per carry and showed signs of growth last year. The Raiders also return for a third straight season with one of the most prolific wide receiver duos in the NFL; 22-year-old ascending star Amari Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree.
Perhaps the greatest weakness on the offense in 2016 was at the tight end position, which primarily began the season with Michael Rivera, Lee Smith and Clive Walford. Lee Smith’s season was lost to injury and was largely an in-line blocking tight end. Likewise, the expectation was for Clive Walford to finally emerge amidst previous injuries and become the answer at tight end for Derek Carr. Finally, Clive was largely mediocre and will have to fight for snaps behind freshly signed free agent Jared Cook, who has previously proven his ability to shake linebacker coverage routinely in his NFL career. All things considered, this roster is loaded and primed to lead the league in most offensive statistical categories in 2017.
Finding the field
Looking past his special teams role, where does Patterson fit offensively? Controversial slot wide receiver Seth Roberts has had successful moments, but also a propensity for routine drops; Patterson will start camp pushing for snaps there. The Raiders primary offensive targets in passing situations allow the slot to operate with speed in space and without prioritized attention by the defense.
This is where Patterson can seamlessly attack with the same vision he uses as a returner. Patterson isn’t a polished wide receiver, but in this offense, he won’t have to be and the less he has to think, the more he can add big plays in simple underneath drag route concepts. While Cook consumes the seams and both Cooper and Crabtree keep the safeties honest with their vertical threats downfield, Patterson can cross the underneath pockets of the defense.
The great protection Carr has in the pocket should lead to slow developing drop-offs to Patterson for big plays. Moreover, Patterson also brings four rushing touchdowns on his resume to Oakland; in combination with Cooper at times being used in pre-snap motion to enter the backfield and release for receptions, perhaps Todd Downing will have a package for Patterson in which he could exhibit his natural instincts as a ball carrier threat to set up reverses, play action and screens from different aired points of attack.
My immediate thought about Cordarrelle’s potential is that of Ted Ginn Jr‘s stint with the Carolina Panthers. He was also a long-time special teams return star in the league and struggled to contribute as a wide receiver because of his similar drawback in route running concepts. Upon arrival in Carolina when the offensive stars were in place, he exploded in 2015 with 739 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns and 752 and 4 respectively in 2016. Ginn Jr. became the big play threat weapon amongst other primary options.
I think Patterson will have limited targets in this loaded offense but return large production from his touches that ultimately will spurn Roberts playing time. Patterson will remain the league’s best kickoff returner in Silver & Black and here’s to hoping to see him take one back to the house in “The Black Hole” albeit this time not in a Vikings uniform.