By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — Every time Cordarrelle Patterson makes a long catch, the crowd cheers.
When he returns a kickoff, breaking outside and turning on the speed, the crowd cheers. If he takes a pitch from the quarterback on an end-around, zipping past the defensive end, the crowd cheers.
Keep in mind that all of these training camp drills are non-tackling, but it seems like every time Patterson, one of the Minnesota Vikings three first-round draft choices, touches the football, the fans are delighted. The expectations weren't hurt by a 50-yard return to open Friday's preseason game.
"There were good things (Friday), and we try to really emphasis those, try to replicate the good ones, and get the other ones out of our system," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "Cordarrelle is doing a great job. It’s tough to learn a whole new system in a short amount of time."
Perhaps he's become so popular because he's essentially the replacement for Percy Harvin, who was traded to Seattle, or maybe it's that the Vikings had to trade three draft picks to move up into the first round to select the Tennessee receiver.
Or maybe it's his combination of size and speed that has the fan base cheering every simple task. He had a team-high four receptions for 54 yards in the preseason opener, giving fans the feeling he could break one at any time.
"He was where he was supposed to be," Musgrave said. "The quarterbacks want to know that guys are going to be dependable, be at the right depth, come out at the right angle and he was that way. You could see that a bunch of passes that he caught, those balls were thrown early, or anticipatory throws, and quarterbacks are starting to trust him."
The Vikings coaches and players took a break from the routine of evening meetings and all went out to see the movie Red 2 as a way to build team chemistry. But while the players had control over the snacks, Frazier was the one to choose the movie.
"I've had other guys pick it before," Frazier said. "This time, I got involved."
Eye on corners
Frazier said that the secondary lacks a proven veteran so there's going to be a lot of emphasis on that group, especially the cornerbacks, during the next two preseason games.
"It will be very, very important to find out where we are and what we are trying to do improve before we play that first game," Frazier said. "It is a key area for us to get a feel for coming out of this preseason."
Frazier mentioned that second-year corner Josh Robinson and rookie Xavier Rhodes will be closely scrutinized to see if they can handle starting roles in the nickel defense.
"There are going to be some growing pains, that is just the way it is in our league, at that position especially," Frazier said. "We have to keep giving them a lot of other looks and situations, while letting them respond, react, grow, and learn.
"We have to expose them to a lot because when we line up in September, nobody is going to feel sorry for the fact that this is the first time starting at their positions."
Locke being watched
Frazier said that he's not at the point of concern about the punting of Jeff Locke, but he said the rookie needs to understand the importance of consistency.
"Splash plays at any position are fine, but can you consistently get the job done?" Frazier said "That is what we will be looking for from him. If he booms one, can he come back and consistently get another good punt off?"
Locke's first three punts were fine, with two downed inside the 10 and another that went 48 yards. His last two weren't as good, going 39 and 38 yards, respectively. Frazier said there's an adjustment for Locke in the speed of the game and the different schemes that opponents will try against him.
But consistent punting, Frazier said, is key to the Vikings' success.
"We are structured a little bit different than some NFL teams, and we win a lot based on field position and not turning the ball over, running the football well and playing good defense," Frazier said. "Special teams are a big part of it as well. That position for us has a lot of weight, but we are confident Jeff can get the job done."
Locke said he punts 70 to 80 balls early in the week, then tapers toward game day. He said the problem Friday had to do with how he dropped the football in the punting motion.
The Vikings have two more practices today before breaking camp. The team will travel to Buffalo on Thursday for the game Friday. ... Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti was held out of practice because of a sore knee. Defensive end Christian Ballard (groin) also was absent. ... Rookie defensive tackle Anthony McCloud appeared to injure his left knee, though he came back to the sideline before practice ended.