The Percy Harvin Saga: What to Expect from Seattle Seahawks’ Wideout in Super Bowl XLVIII


Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks’ Head Coach, Pete Carroll, has already stated that he expects Percy Harvin to retake the field on ‘Super Bowl Sunday.’ In fact, he’s back at practice today (per ESPN 710 Seattle). Seattle’s star offseason acquisition has spent the bulk of the 2013 NFL season mired in injury. As we all know, the elusive Harvin spent the first half of the season on the PUP list, recovering from an offseason hip injury and subsequent surgical procedure. He made his Seahawks debut on November 17th, vs. his former team, the Minnesota Vikings– ultimately aggravating his injured hip and missing the remainder of the regular season.

Harvin’s second appearance in Seahawk blue came two weeks ago in the team’s divisional playoff matchup vs. the New Orleans Saints. He exited the game early after sustaining a couple of hard hits above the shoulders amid concussion concerns. The wideout seemed to find the turf regularly, whether he was involved in the play or not, and after exiting the game there was much ballyhoo regarding his potential targeting by the New Orleans’ defense. He was later diagnosed with a concussion, and would subsequently miss Seattle’s NFC Championship matchup against rival San Francisco. That’s the backstory.

What Percy Harvin Brings to the Table:

Percy Harvin is one of the most electric players in the National Football League. His lightning quick speed and razor sharp cutbacks have been a pleasure to watch, all the way back to his days at Florida catching wobblers from Tim Tebow. His upside is limitless in a Darrell Bevell offense led by Pro-Bowl Quarterback, Russell Wilson. Needless to say, this author has been– and will remain– a fan. Harvin detractors (haters?) bring up his obvious injury concerns. Despite how this season has unfortunately played out for #11, prior to exiting the Vikings’ week 9 matchup IN SEATTLE last season, Harvin had only missed a handful of games in his career and was a serious MVP candidate.

The talented playmaker has seen a severe shortage of snaps as a Seahawk, considering his high-dollar impact on the team’s salary cap. Injuries happen, though. Harvin is just 25 years old, and if he can find the proverbial ‘get right’ button, has several years of top-notch contribution left in his speedy legs. Nobody should discount what Seattle’s receiving core has done this season. After all, they’re headed to New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII, en-large without contribution from the top-2 receivers on their training camp depth-chart– in Harvin and Sidney Rice.

When Harvin has been on the field, the Seahawks– at times stagnant– offense has been nothing short of dynamic. Check out his NFL ‘Top-100’ tape (And All-World CB Richard Sherman’s take on the acquisition) in the video below:

How WR Helps Seattle ‘Open a Can’ on the Denver Broncos’ Defense:

We can’t say enough about the season that Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse have put together– serious praise is absolutely in order. This is a solid group. To restate: The Seattle Seahawks are packing their bags for Super Bowl XLVIII, en-large without contribution from #11. That said, Seattle has experienced some offensive woes lately, and a healthy Harvin remedies a lot of them. He makes a solid special-teams unit better, and a better-than-average offense nothing short of explosive. First though, we’ll explore the root of said ‘woes’. Enter: The Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals laid the most effective blueprint for beating Seattle that we’ve seen against this team as it’s currently constructed. Arizona showed a single high-safety look, kept 8 in the box much of the game, played tough brand of man coverage outside, and took away Golden Tate. They kept Russell Wilson in the pocket, and stymied Marshawn Lynch for much of the day. It was an effective game plan– hence, Seattle’s only home loss over the past two seasons– and one that subsequent opponents have attempted to emulate. However, one must also note that this was the last game Seattle failed to win. It ultimately comes down to personnel, and few squads in the league match up with Seattle as well as Arizona does when they’re playing well.

San Francisco discovered this in THE hardest way imaginable on Sunday Night. Despite a solid reputation, the 49ers secondary rides the middle of the pack, statistically– their real strength lies in the strongest linebacking core in the league. Denver is constructed very similarly, in this respect. They utilize a strong front-7 (sans Von Miller, this time around) to mask some weaknesses downfield. If the Broncos were to employ the Cardinals’ single-high, 8 in the box look, with Percy Harvin on the field.. it would be tantamount to suicide on the defensive side of the ball. I see the ‘Hawks offense outperforming most of their statistical averages in this game, regardless of what Denver does on defense, but that’s fodder for another day.

Percy’s speed forces a defense to account for him on every single play. He draws attention whenever he’s on the field, wherever he lines up; and deservedly so. Much of Seattle’s offensive intent with Harvin is to use him as a decoy– drawing coverage, and opening up plays downfield for other receivers and/or releasing tight-ends. However, if left unaccounted for on a play-action go-route (for example), Russell Wilson has the arm and the touch to make every throw. Death by deep route. With that same play-action/option look, the fear of getting beat downfield by Harvin, or Tate and Baldwin underneath, could cause the Broncos to drop one or more of their linebackers into coverage– enter: Marshawn Lynch. Seattle’s “Beastmode” running back stands to benefit more from Harvin’s mere presence on the football field than anyone outside of Darrell Bevell.

In Conclusion:

This offensive approach is exactly what John Schneider and Pete Carroll must have been visualizing when they went ‘all-in’ on the speedy playmaker, way back on March 11th, 2013. After a demoralizing loss in the Georgia Dome last January, Seattle’s biggest– and most glaring– need was a pass rush that could last into the 4th quarter and find quick, consistent pressure. They took care of that by signing Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, then institutionalizing the now infamous ‘NASCAR’ package. Boom, strip-sack. Need; erased! Percy Harvin was the true, luxury pick-up– one meant to put the Seattle Seahawks over the top. A fail-safe against January or February defeat, if you will.

Harvin could have been forced back sooner, but at the risk of his football future with the team– a rather expensive proposition. Other coaches might have done that (looking at you, Mike Shanahan & Co.). Things didn’t go as expected for Mr. Harvin this season– in fact, they couldn’t have gone much worse, really. Yet, Seattle is headed to New Jersey anyway? Seattle can beat Denver without him, but Percy Harvin on the field for the Super Bowl makes an already exciting team even more fun to watch. Eleven days and counting…

Comments? Questions? Concerns? Leave it in the comments below, or hit me on Twitter @JasonTurnerWA