Don’t you dare put a label on Cordarrelle Patterson.
“I don’t like when somebody tries to label me as this or that,” Patterson told the Boston Globe in April 2018. “I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and have fun while doing it.”
Ahhhh, yes. Fun. That’s something Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy likes to have with his players. Between the various formations, motions, gimmick plays, goal-line gadget trickeration, and wonky names attached to it all, you can see why Patterson was more interested in the Bears in 2019 than when he last visited as a free agent in 2017.
Now that he is a member of the Bears, let’s get to know him better.
Player, Age (in 2019), Position
Cordarrelle Patterson, 28, wide receiver/return specialist
- 2 years, $10 million
- Season stats: 15 games (5 starts), 21 catches, 247 yards, 3 TD; 42 rushes, 228 yards, 1 TD; 23 kick returns, 663 yards, 1 TD; 1,138 all-purpose yards
Leave it to Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels to figure out how to use a player as unique and dynamic as Patterson. The Patriots used Patterson as a receiver where he would line up and run patterns from traditional spots in the formation, as a rusher in a traditional behind-the-QB sense and via jet sweeps and things of that nature. It all added up to Patterson getting a career-high 63 touches and scoring four touchdowns as a receiver or running back. Some players slow down on special teams when they are given additional offensive responsibilities, but not Patterson. He still racked up 663 return yards and scored his sixth career return touchdown.
On that day, the Bears allowed Patterson to have other returns of 22, 24, and 38 yards en route to a four-return, 179-yard day. No wonder the Bears signed him!
- Career stats: 95 games (29 starts), 184 catches, 1,872 yards, 10 TD; 86 rushes 662 yards, 7 TD; 176 kick returns, 5,276 yards, 6 TD
- Notable career accomplishments: Pro Bowl (2013, 2016), All-Pro first-team (2013, 2016), 2013 NFL All-Rookie Team, All-Pro second-team (2018), Owner of the longest kick-return in NFL history.
- Pro Football Focus grades: 54.8 (2011), 63.0 (2012), 54.2 (2013), 58.0 (2014), 52.6 (2015), 59.2 (2016), 65.9 (2017), 57.3 (2018).
Even though he never caught on as a full-time wide receiver, Patterson has always been a dynamic return specialist. He led the league in yards per return as a rookie in 2013 (32.4), 2015 (31.8), and 2016 (31.7). Through 95 career games, Patterson owns a 30.0 yards per return average. The only player with a higher average (with a minimum of 75 games played) is Gale Sayers. Safe to say that Patterson is in good company.
Patterson has been inactive for just one game in his entire career.
Cordarrelle Patterson said he's trying to get Devin Hester's phone number to "learn a lot of tips and stuff he did while he’s here."
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) March 14, 2019
The Vikings were onto something when they drafted Patterson in the first round in 2013, but never utilized him to his full potential in their offense. Go figure. It wasn’t until Patterson joined the Patriots last offseason when he was used properly. Patterson can line up inside or outside as a receiver and can be thrown into the backfield to take carries. So when the Bears put Patterson on the field with Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen, and Anthony Miller, the Bears will have a lineup with four players who are versatile enough to be an option to run it on a jet sweep, catch a quick screen, or go deep in a pattern. Good luck defending against all those possibilities at once.
Where Patterson will be most valuable is in the return game. The Bears averaged a league-worst 19.1 yards per kick return last season and have ranked in the bottom half of the league in this area for each of the last three years. Enough already! And if teams are afraid of kicking it to Patterson, that won’t negate his value as a returner. Instead, it will allow the Bears to start their offensive possession at the 25-yard-line, which would be an improvement over where they finished in 2018.
“I don’t know what you’ve been through in the past, but basically, we get the job done here,” Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said, via Mark Dunphy of the Boston Globe. “We’re gonna make you the player that you should be.”
This is the mindset the Bears should have with Patterson over the next two years. But instead of not factoring in the past, the powers that be on the offensive side of the football should look to what the Patriots did last year so Patterson can build on what he accomplished in New England.