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Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson could give Vikings depth at receiver

The Minnesota Vikings hope to improve offensively with the emergence of Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson, ultimately aiming to make the playoffs.

As the Vikings hope to get more out of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in his third NFL season, it would help if he had more help from his wideouts. Bridgewater may be getting it, based on the recently-concluded offseason program.

In a 10-takeaway item from the team’s offseason program, Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggests that real contributions could be coming from the two players who have been forgotten amid the presence of 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell and 2015 fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs: Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson (pictured).

Writes Vensel of Johnson, who was a pleasant surprise in 2014 but largely MIA last year: “The wide receiver who popped out most during spring workouts was Charles Johnson, who got the bulk of the first-team reps at split end.” While Vensel believes that Johnson, who played No. 1 split end for most of the offseason, eventually will yield to Treadwell, the development speaks well to the depth at the position.

After catching 31 passes for 475 yards in 2014, Johnson had only nine catches for 127 a year ago. Of course, that’s still better than Patterson, a 2013 first-rounder whose contributions at receiver have plummeted from 45-469 as a rookie to 2-10 in his third year, which for many receivers is the breakout-or-bust year.

Patterson enters a contract year, since the team didn’t pick up the option on his rookie deal. But there are signs that maybe the light is finally going to flip to the “on” position for Patterson. Vensel calls coach Mike Zimmer’s remark that he hasn’t seen many mental errors from Patterson as “probably the most noteworthy” remark of the offseason, given that Zimmer has been blunt about Patterson (and pretty much everyone else).

Vensel also suggests that the Vikings are looking for creative ways to get the ball into Patterson’s hands on offense, given his significant kick-return skills -- skills that could be marginalized if the Vikings decide to not give him the green light for kickoffs that go into the end zone this year, opting instead for taking the ball at the 25.

If they can get real production from Johnson and Patterson to go with Treadwell and Diggs and Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings could have a much improved offense as they try to return to the playoffs and make some noise when they get there.