How Percy Harvin Fits Perfectly with Seattle's Read-Option Offense
Harvin was expected to be traded, as there were numerous reports about his questionable locker room character over the years, but the magnitude of the deal sent shock waves throughout the NFL. The Seahawks gave up multiple draft picks, including this April's first round pick (via ESPN.com).
Now in Seattle, the 24-year-old pass-catcher goes to another team that has a dominant running game but also a very impressive young quarterback. Russell Wilson is going into his second year in the pros and is expected to have more on his plate as he attempts to lead the team to the Super Bowl.
One potential addition to the playbook is an expansion of the read-option package that the team utilized last season.
The read-option, along with the pistol formation, has been a growing trend for NFL offenses and is likely to continue to grow next season. The Seahawks are likely to contribute to the trend with the addition of Harvin, who is one of the league's most dangerous weapons.
The former University of Florida receiver is dynamic with the football in his hands. He can make multiple defenders miss because of his rare agility and quickness. He is also uncommonly versatile, as he can line up all over the formation as a receiver and double up as a running back as well.
Last season, Harvin averaged nearly 11 yards per reception and 4.4 yards per carry in nine games. In 2011, he played all 16 games for the first time in his career and averaged nearly the same amount of yards per reception while also averaging 6.6 yards per carry. It's safe to say he can pick up yards in chunks.
If the Seahawks hope to utilize Harvin's talent, they'll give him handoffs and install read-option play action when he's split out.
The Vikings were able to get their former receiver the ball in the running game last season by lining him up in multiple formations. They included him in shotgun, where he was the lone back, and heavy personnel, which features a fullback.
One example of the latter came in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans. The Vikings were on the verge of scoring when at the goal line in the first quarter. They lined up in shotgun set, with Christian Ponder at quarterback and Harvin at running back to his left.
When the ball snapped, Harvin came across the formation and took the handoff from Ponder on a stretch play.
Harvin attacked the line of scrimmage and was immediately met by Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy. Shooting through the gap, McCarthy made an attempt to tackle Harvin. He failed to do so, however, when the ball-carrier bounced outside before making a cut back inside.
With McCarthy out of the picture, Harvin broke two tackles at the goal line and scored a four-yard touchdown.
Giving Harvin the ball in the running game is an excellent option for the Seahawks in their read-option package. He is a very dangerous threat to score any time he gets the ball in his hands.
If a defensive end or linebacker crashes down the line of scrimmage too aggressively, Russell Wilson could do even more damage with his legs by keeping the ball than he did last season.
Either way, the defense loses.
When Harvin is not in the backfield, the Seahawks could look to throw him the ball off of play-action. For instance, when the defensive end crashes down to tackle the running back, Wilson could pull the ball out and throw it outside to Harvin on a bubble screen.
A perfect example of Harvin's capabilities after catching a screen pass came in the previously mentioned game against the Titans.
The Vikings were lined up in shotgun again and to Ponder's right, there were three potential pass-catchers in a Trips Bunch formation. One of them was Harvin, who was the No. 3 receiver (furthest inside).
Harvin was going to be running a quick swing pass outside when the ball snapped. Meanwhile, the other became blockers, taking (wide side cornerback) on the field and nickel cornerbacks.
When Ponder caught the snap, he immediately turned to his right and threw the ball to Harvin.
And then he watched his receiver do what he does best...
As one can see, he can make defenders look silly before reaching the end zone. This ability is one of the rare traits that he possesses, making him a great trade acquisition for the Seahawks.
The offense will not only be more explosive but also dynamic. They'll be able to use Harvin in a variety of ways, including giving him carries and throwing him the ball off of read-option play action. He'll also be a threat motioning across the formation before the snap, as Yahoo's Greg Cosell explained:
Now add Harvin into the mix, sprinting into the backfield. That gives the Seahawks so many more options, and the defense much more to digest, process and adjust to in a matter of seconds. It’s a very difficult balancing act for even the most experienced defense.
It’s a fascinating dynamic. Even though Harvin is motioning tight to the formation, he is really stretching the field horizontally because of the speed with which he is crossing the field. That kind of velocity motion forces the defense to widen. Why? What if Wilson takes the snap, and immediately hands the ball to Harvin racing to the perimeter? That attacks the edge, and puts the defense in a tough predicament.
It's safe to say the Seahawks have a lot of options. This begs the question: How will defenses begin to defend it?
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