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Updated: November 13th, 2013 12:42pm
Zulgad: Vikings should give Jerome Simpson's snaps to Patterson

Zulgad: Vikings should give Jerome Simpson's snaps to Patterson

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Vikings stand to see one of the most dynamic play-makers in franchise history on Sunday when Percy Harvin makes his expected debut as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

One has to wonder if the Vikings will be wise enough to counter by using a guy who eventually could help make their fan base forget that Harvin used to wear purple.

Cordarrelle Patterson played 21 snaps in the Vikings' victory over Washington last Thursday, meaning he was in for a season-high 39.6 percent of the offensive plays. Patterson, 6-2, 220 pounds, caught two passes, including a 2-yard touchdown that ended a scoring drive that opened with Christian Ponder finding Patterson for a 20-yard reception.

It might have been an improvement on many of Patterson's previous games but it wasn't nearly enough for a rookie who is raw but beyond talented. While Patterson's touchdown catch was his first in the NFL, it was his third score of the season.

The first two, of course, were game-opening touchdown returns of 105 and 109 yards on kickoffs that were highlights in a season full of lowlights.

If Patterson's explosiveness on special teams wasn't reason enough for coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to get him on the field on a regular basis, the Vikings now have the perfect excuse to give Patterson a healthy dose of playing time.

Jerome Simpson caused the Vikings some unwanted headaches Saturday morning when he was arrested on probably cause of drunken driving in Minneapolis but he also did them a favor.

After a miserable initial season with the Vikings, Simpson has returned this year and played pretty well. He has been targeted a team-high 63 times, leads the Vikings with 491 receiving yards and his 33 catches are one behind Greg Jennings for tops on the club.

But even before Simpson was arrested, his future with the Vikings was uncertain. The 27-year-old is playing on a one-year contract and it's clear that Patterson is the Vikings' long-term answer as their main vertical threat.

Simpson's latest brush with the law also isn't his first and that could mean trouble. He was suspended by the NFL for three games to begin the 2012 season after pleading guilty to drug charges in Kentucky. Simpson also might have violated the terms of his probation agreement in that state.

In other words, the NFL and Kentucky authorities could have a say on Simpson's playing time in 2014.

The Vikings can make sure that isn't their concern by letting Simpson walk and taking steps to have Patterson prepared to play.

Simpson has said he expects to play Sunday in Seattle. Frazier said the same but hasn't made that official.

The smartest thing Frazier could do is leave Simpson on the bench and give his snaps to Patterson, who has 18 receptions for 168 yards. Given his speed, his average of 9.3 yards per catch is way too low.

Simpson or his representatives previously could have complained about this change, pointing to his production, but they will have no argument if he doesn't play now.

And for those who complain the Vikings are taking a valuable receiver off the field. Who cares? This is a 2-7 team and every ounce of their focus should be on 2014.

The Vikings gave up second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks to New England last April on draft night in order to obtain the 29th pick in the first round and take Patterson. That's a lot to surrender to not play a guy consistently.

If Frazier or Musgrave wants to argue that Patterson doesn't know exactly how to run routes, the flip side is he needs to learn and now. Not next season. If Patterson gets huge snaps on Sunday and makes mistakes there's nothing wrong with that.

That's why you have Monday film sessions. Correct those mistakes now when expectations are zero.

Simpson's off-the-field conduct has presented the Vikings with a great opportunity. Let's see if they make the most of it.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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