The Seattle Seahawks have a unique advantage over the New Orleans Saints in Saturday’s NFL divisional round playoff contest: X factor wide receiver Percy Harvin. Not only is the fifth-year player a versatile weapon who can score on kick returns, pass plays, and runs, but his limited regular season action makes game-planning against him a difficult task for Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Since being traded to the Seattle Seahawks from the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason, Harvin has appeared in just one game, due to his recovery from Aug. 1 hip surgery. That game -- against Harvin’s former team, the Vikings -- offered the Seahawks a tantalizing glimpse of what Harvin can bring to their team. His first catch for Seattle was a sensational 17-yard grab on an eventual touchdown drive. Harvin followed that up by ripping off a 58-yard kick return late in the second quarter that set up the Seahawks in Vikings territory on another TD drive.
His final numbers on the regular season: Two plays, 75 yards.
Speaking with the media yesterday, Harvin offered hints of how he expects to be used after watching film on Ryan’s defense.
“They believe a lot in their secondary because I notice they do a lot of zero blitzing. That means no safeties over the top," Harvin said. "As receivers on third down, that's where we are looking to cash in at. We feel man-to-man, one-on-one, we feel confident that we can beat them."
Harvin will also be returning kickoffs against the Saints, giving the Seahawks a potent one-two punch on special teams. Golden Tate finished with the second-most punt return yards in the NFL this season.
Yesterday, Harvin sounded relieved and grateful to be healthy enough to join his teammates in the playoffs.
"I'm just glad to be out there helping my team right now," Harvin said after practice on Thursday. "The playoffs, that's what we all dream about, to have home-field advantage, to have all the things the team has put in place. It would be hard for me to try to not be out there."
Harvin’s teammates sounded enthusiastic about his return as well.
“He looks unbelievable so far,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after Wednesday’s practice.
Richard Sherman, Seattle’s All-Pro cornerback and in-house receiver expert added,“He creates so many different challenges; he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s dynamic. If he gets a step on you, there’s no coming back from that.”
Golden Tate may have put it best: "[He’s] fast as beeeeeep."
If we get to see Harvin hit speeds of beeeeeep on Saturday, it will be a credit to the team’s approach of patience towards Harvin’s recovery. After his hip began to swell following the Vikings game, the team considered placing him on IR, but ultimately decided against it in the hope that he’d be back to full strength in the playoffs. The gamble paid off.
“We've been so close so many times to taking this step,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Thursday. “We just waited it out as long as we could. The couple weeks we gained (with the first-round bye last week) made a difference. Percy stuck to it and never backed off the process of the rehab. We're anxious to add him to the mix."
“I'm feeling great," Harvin said. "I had a good two weeks. I came back this week and had no setbacks and felt good.”
With a playmaker of Harvin’s ability suddenly added to the mix, fans of the Seattle Seahawks are no doubt feeling great too.