The Vikings are doing just fine without former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, but head coach Mike Zimmer on Wednesday offered up some surprising regret about the way he coached Patterson in Minnesota.
"Quite honestly, they're using him way better than we did," Zimmer told Patriots reporters during a conference call on Wednesday, according to ESPN.com. "I wish we would have used him a little better."
It's not like Patterson has developed into a stud wide receiver, but he's being used in more ways than just a kick returner like he was during his final three seasons in Minnesota.
"They're getting the ball in his hands quite a bit," Zimmer added. "He is an exceptional hard runner that can make a lot of big plays. He can make guys miss. He gets a lot of yards after contact. And then, whether it's throwing him the ball, or handing him the ball, or rocket sweeps, or whatever it is ... everybody has known how talented he was. We obviously knew how talented he was here as well, but we didn't get him the ball enough in a lot of those ways that they're using him."
Under head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have utilized Patterson as a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back. He has 37 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown, in addition to 13 catches for 120 yards and two scores.
"Honestly, since I've been watching him on tape, I'm going to put that in the back of my mind if we ever get a guy like this again. ... That we can use him in much better ways," said Zimmer.
In a victory over the Jets on Sunday, the Patriots handed the ball to Patterson on a key fourth-and-one play and he bullied his way forward for the first down.
He's carried the ball at least four times in each of the last four games, including double-digit carries against Buffalo and Green Bay, the latter of which he torched for 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushes.
It's unclear if the Patriots will unleash Patterson against the Vikings since running back Rex Burkhead is returning from injury, but the threat alone is enough to give pause to Vikings fans who remember Patterson's explosiveness.