There is a great degree of positive speculation lately about Percy Harvin playing for the Seahawks in their upcoming playoff tilt with the Saints. If it pans out to where Harvin is in fact at 100%, it presents an almost unprecedented scenario for every team that may face Seattle in terms of preparation. From the film room to the practice field, teams are going to be merely guessing about what they are going to face against the Seahawks offense, an offense that happens to be chock-full of other playmakers who have already dominated at times this year.
There are so many things you can do with a Percy Harvin in your offense that the only limit is how creative his offensive coordinator can be. You can literally play havoc on defensive personnel groups by doing things like showing four or five receivers with no running backs in the huddle and forcing the D to bring in their Nickel and Dime packages, among others, to stop the pass, only to line up with Percy at running back and attack the lighter defensive front. You can line him up at any receiver spot where he is likely to draw double coverage, freeing up the other established targets that Russell Wilson has at his disposal. Harvin could also be paired with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield in shotgun formations and pose what may be the most lethal read-option trio yet to be seen in the NFL.
Consider the following scenario : Seattle succeeds with Harvin running from the option a few times. Teams will be forced to adjust by either stacking the box with a safety or changing their personnel to packages more suited to stopping the run. At that point Darrell Bevell can motion Harvin out to the flank and pull one of the members of the defensive front out of the box. That creates several matchup issues for the defense. First off, the box is one player lighter and Marshawn Lynch is hard enough to stop with eight in the box as it is. Secondly, the defense most likely has a strong safety or linebacker matched up with Harvin, which means they are probably making adjustments on the fly to double him. Breakdowns happen in coverage more often in these types of scenarios. On top of all of that, any time Percy Harvin is in the huddle after successfully running the ball, the dice have to be rolled with defensive personnel because you don’t know where he is going to line up once the huddle breaks. They will either choose to use an extra DB or LB and that could lead to some obvious mismatches in pass coverage. Throw in the possibility of play-action and you effectively have a defensive coordinator pulling out his locks (Rob Ryan, I’m looking at you).
Harvin just also happens to possibly be the most dangerous kickoff return man in the NFL when healthy. Whether the Seahawks elect to utilize him in that role remains to be seen. If he is 100% my bet would be that they do. That could significantly affect the field position game and give the Seahawks shorter distances to the promised land, within which they could be wreaking the kind of havoc described in the prior paragraphs. (Harvin has a career 28.2/yd per kick return average and 5 tds. His only return this year was a 58 yarder). Usually the team that wins the field postion battle wins the game, not to mention the Seahawks cause a ton of turnovers on D that also have an effect on this metric. The Seahawks also possess some of the best special teams in the game, especially the punt team which has pinned opponents inside the 20 yard line 28 times and only surrendered 82 return yards all season with 57 of those coming in one game. Seattle is more than equipped to absolutely dictate the field position war as well as dominate physically between the lines.
Bottom line, this Seahawks team has been dangerous all season and to add a weapon of mass defensive destruction to the mix like Harvin is almost unfair. When was the last time you saw an addition of this caliber to a roster after the playoffs have started? The only example that comes to mind for me is Bob Sanders when the Colts went on their Super Bowl run in 2006-07. He was an absolute monster and changed the course of every game they played that post season. That being said, I can’t think of an example on the offensive side of the ball that matches the potential of Harvin. That Colts team also wasn’t as deep or talented as the current Seahawks’ roster.
Preparation is everything in the NFL. The gap between the worst team in the league and the best is really not that vast and the gap is largely filled by preparation in all aspects. Harvin coming on this late absolutely decimates the ability to effectively conduct the most vital factor to success for any Seahawks opponent-preparation. All that remains to be seen is Harvin taking the field in a healthy state. We will know a lot more come Saturday.