FOXBOROUGH — Cordarrelle Patterson knows how to make himself at home in a new environment.
He’s moved each of the last two years, this year to New England from Oakland, in 2017 to Oakland from Minnesota. Even in his first four years in the NFL, all spent as a Viking, Patterson changed houses every offseason just for a change of scenery.
“Sometimes you get tired of the same thing, you want to switch it up,” he explained.
Most groan at the thought of moving but, not only does Patterson not mind it, he likes to do the moving chores himself. He packs and unpacks his boxes and is “a genius” decorating. He did have some buddies, though not a moving company, do the drive from California to Massachusetts with his stuff.
“If I can do it I’m going to do it myself,” Patterson said. “Cut my own grass, stuff like that. If I can do it myself I’m going to do it. I’m not going to pay somebody to do something I can do myself.”
That’s the attitude the Patriots hope they’re getting on the field from the 2013 first-round draft pick. Patterson should be a great addition on special teams, where he’s one of the best kick returners in football, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be able to make use of his athleticism in creative ways.
The question is, can he be more than a gadget player in the offense?
For all his athletic talents, Patterson has never had a 500-yard season. The Patriots don’t need him to — their No. 4 wide receiver by yardage last year was Phillip Dorsett, who had 194 yards — but it would go a long way if Patterson is ready to make solid contributions in September while Julian Edelman is suspended.
“There’s a lot to prove, man, but each and every day I’m just thankful to be here and have the opportunity,” Patterson said. “I’m blessed, I’m happy and just going to go out and try to make the most of it.”
His size and speed make it tempting, but the Patriots aren’t trying to project what Patterson can become. They’re trying to take the talent he is and has shown and figure out how to work that into their offense best.
“We always talk about what our players can do, we don’t talk about what they can’t do,” said receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
In the preseason, Patterson made his best plays on end-arounds and screen passes and that could come in handy, especially since opponents won’t have much tape on him as a Patriot early in the season.
Patterson’s best game in the preseason was against the Eagles, where he nearly scored a 63-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Tom Brady (he barely stepped out of bounds after 23 yards) and did score on a screen pass from Brian Hoyer. On that play, Patterson juked Eagles corner Sidney Jones out of his cleats at the line, which pleased him because not getting caught at the line is something he’s worked on this offseason.
Patterson wasn’t one of the mainstay Brady targets during training camp or the preseason, but O’Shea said that he’s done well with the playbook and noted that Patterson didn’t miss a single practice session this summer.
“I have a lot of respect for the way he’s come in here and worked and he’ll continue to improve if he works,” O’Shea said.
Patterson may also be in the conversation for punt returner. He was deep for one punt in the preseason, but didn’t bring it back, and has worked with Ryan Allen and the punting unit in practices. For now, especially since the Patriots signed receiver and punt returner Riley McCarron to the 53-man roster Thursday, Patterson doesn’t expect punt return duties to fall to him.
“I mean, we’ve got great punt returners here right now so it’s like, why would I step on their toes?”
Patterson also explained part of the difference between returning a punt and a kickoff, which is significant.
“I’ve been catching kicks my whole life,” Patterson said. “It comes naturally to me. Punts, it’s something I have to work on a lot. A lot more. The ball is coming full speed down at you, especially a great [punter], the ball is coming right down at you. It’s dropping, sometimes you don’t know where it’s going.”
The more you can do the better when it comes to the Patriots, so a little of everything may be how Patterson makes his new home in New England.