Percy Harvin's Return Spells Trouble for Banged-Up Broncos Secondary

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 25, 2014

Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin (11) warms up before the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game against the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In the run up to Super Bowl XLVIII, much is being made of the matchup between the Denver Broncos' record-setting offense and Seattle's NFL-best defense.

However, the Seahawks aren't the only defense who will have their hands full on February 2. In fact, the Denver defense may face an even taller task.

Not only must it stop bruising tailback Marshawn Lynch, but the Broncos must also reel in a Seattle receiving corps getting healthy at the perfect time.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Broncos.

Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who missed nearly the entire season after undergoing hip surgery, returned to play the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round, only to suffer a concussion.

That concussion sidelined Harvin for last week's win in the NFC Championship Game, but Kevin Patra of reports the 25-year-old has been cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol and is on track to play against the Broncos.

Harvin told Tom Pelissero of USA Today his surgically repaired hip is also well:

None of this is good news for a Broncos pass defense that's been something of a sore spot all season long.

Pass Defense Comparison

While the Seahawks thrived against the pass the season, the Broncos struggled. Yes, the numbers are somewhat inflated by Peyton Manning-fueled shootouts, but the fact remains that only five teams in the NFL allowed more passing yards per game in 2013.

Injuries have been a big problem this year. Free-agent acquisition Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played well in coverage this year, but mainstay Champ Bailey has been in and out of the lineup. Even worse, no one stepped into the gap after Bailey went down.

Denver Broncos CB Rankings
PlayerOverall RankCoverage Rank
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie55
Chris Harris912
Quentin Jammer3632
Champ Bailey14295
Kayvon Webster160152
Tony Carter168169
Per Pro Football Focus

The patchwork has shown at times, and now the Broncos have been dealt an even more severe blow.

Cornerback Chris Harris, who may have been Denver's most consistent defensive back this season, tore his ACL in the divisional round. Harris wasn't missed in Denver's big win over New England, but his absence still casts a shadow over an already shaky secondary.

It's a problem with Harvin set to return.

Assuming Harvin is anywhere close to 100 percent, he joins Golden Tate and NFC title game hero Doug Baldwin as a trio of receivers who are all dangerous vertically and in the open field.

It's not as if the Denver corners can count on a lot of help from the safeties either. None of the Denver safeties ranked inside the top 30 at the position this season at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and there's been turnover at both spots all season long.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson makes his hay by buying time with his legs, waiting for a receiver to find a hole in the coverage down the field, and now Harvin is returning just in time to exploit this hole in the Denver defense.

Granted, none of this is certain. Harvin has barely seen the field in 2013. The Seattle offensive line (which has struggled a bit of late) needs to buy Wilson time. Wilson needs to deliver the football on target.

Weird things happen sometimes in Super Bowls. Players come from nowhere to steal the show.

This is a matchup that plays well into Percy Harvin's chances of doing just that, and while we can't say he came from nowhere...

It sure feels like a long time since we've seen him.


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