Jon Gruden wants his wide receivers to excel at route running. They must beat a defender using their wit in perfect unison with body control and athleticism. Getting in and out of breaks with precision holds more weight than relying solely on pure speed in Gruden’s book. Cordarrelle Patterson undoubtedly has athleticism in spades, but where he falls short on the Gruden meter is the route tree. Hence, he landed with the New England Patriots (along with a sixth-round pick) in exchange for a fifth-round selection; one the Oakland Raiders did not have after the Marshawn Lynch trade.
In Gruden’s eyes, Patterson’s gadget player role was not worth the price of admission ($3.25 million). While he did remain a valuable asset as a kick returner (19 returns for 538 yards, an impressive 28.6 average) and an electric ball carrier (13 rushes, 121 yards and two long scores), the price tag was too rich for Gruden’s liking. It’s Patterson’s receiving line (31 catches, 309 yards and zero scores) that scuttled the CP Express in Oakland.
It should have been obvious from the start, really.
In training camp last season, it was noted while Patterson could run, route running was a work in progress. The practices media was allowed to see showed video of Patterson going to long before making a break or cutting one too short. It was a big reason why he could not unseat fellow wideout Seth Roberts for No. 3 duties. Roberts was the superior route runner.
Fate allowed Patterson five professional seasons to evolve as a route runner. Yet, the light never turned on. You can blame inept offensive coordinators and gameplans. However, in the end, the ability to execute a route tree belies on the player.
Thus, Patterson is a Patriot and returns to his bread-and-butter grouping — special teams. New England has been missing a dynamic kickoff returner and that is what they will get in CP. But with the kickoff rules diminishing the role (kickers have been blasting kickoffs into and out of the end zone on a regular basis) the Patriots will find out what the Vikings and Raiders did, Patterson is an electrifying gadget player, no more, no less.
Gruden takes an opportunity to seek a more polished wide receiver in free agency or the draft. Moreover, the Raiders now have a hole in the return game. Just like the dismissal of Patterson, that eventual addition will have Gruden’s fingerprints all over it.