Unlocking Cordarrelle Patterson Secret Can Open Up Bears Attack

The Bears badly need speed outside to open up their attack but remain one of the four teams who had Cordarrelle Patterson and only utilized his skills to the slightest extent
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The Bears badly need a speed threat or breakaway player who can stretch defenses and, at the very least, generate fear with defenses.

They're hoping Ted Ginn Jr. can do this at age 35, but do have a younger player on the roster who fill the role if they could simply find a way to do it.

It isn't rookie Darnell Mooney, who does have the speed but will need seasoning.

Of course, it's their kick returner and Swiss Army Knife player, Cordarrelle Patterson.

"Obviously he's an explosive, talented player," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said early in the offseason. "That can be at running back, receiver, returner. We're going to make sure we're getting the most out of that player because he's too talented not to."

Without an addition possessing speed at receiver beyond Mooney and Ginn, Patterson is going to be a potential game breaker. The real problem is harnessing this speed because it's been elusive for every team that tried, even the New England Patriots.

Sure, Tarik Cohen has speed but it's more in bursts and with elusivness as a runner. 

Patterson truly possesses the ability to occupy a pair of defenders with deep routes whether he catches it or not, and can take a short flip straight upfield for 20 or more yards at the bat of an eyelash.

If only they can find a way to unlock the secret to Patterson. It's an enticing challenge considering his combination of 4.4-second 40-yard speed and his 6-foot-2, 238-pound size.

After seven seasons in the NFL with only occasional flashes of ability on offense, some players might have been deemed hopeless and left in the special teams bin. Yet there are those flashes.

The Vikings saw that 79-yard touchdown play when they hit him on a bubble at the line and wondered why they couldn't do these things more often. They never in four seasons completed a pass downfield longer to Patterson than the 39-yard catch he made against the Bears' Cre'Von LeBlanc in his final game with Minnesota in 2016.

The Raiders got one deep ball completed to him during his one season there, a 54-yarder against the Broncos.

Tom Brady in 2018 did hit him for a 55-yard pass that was an ugly play in which Patterson was wide open and caught the ball breaking stride and turning his body, then took off downfield with a sweet cut.

When the Patriots beat the Vikings on Dec. 2 in 2018, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted New England had found a way to use Patterson much better than they ever had. Yet, Patterson had only three games in which he had more than 20 yards receiving in New England and never had another catch like that 55-yarder.

Last year the Bears got the ball in Patterson's hands only 28 times on scrimmage plays and his biggest play was a run.

Patterson as a receiver has shown time and again he can be the player who takes a bubble the distance or flat route for 40 or 50 yards. Yet, he has never shown an ability at any of his four stops to stretch a defense downfield.

If Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, coach Matt Nagy and receivers coach Mike Furrey can find the way to tap into that downfield speed, they'll be the first to really do it.

At age 29 and in the second and final year of Patterson's Bears contract, his value beyond kick returner would seem to be as a player who lines up in the backfield and takes a toss or lines up in the slot and runs a jet sweep, or comes off the line one step back and catches a bubble screen instead of a stretcher of defenses.

So it leaves one wondering why more wasn't done to add to the speed of a receiver corps badly in need of it beyond a 35-year-old Ginn and a rookie.

If the Bears can find a way to make him more than this, it could open up their offense in ways they never imagined possible.

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