Prediction: Only one defense in the National Football League will be able to limit Percy Harvin’s statistics this season.
It belongs to the Seattle Seahawks.
Through training camp, Harvin has shown the speed and dynamic playmaking ability that make him one of the league’s most dangerous and versatile offensive talents.
Catch after catch, on screens and hitches and slants and crossing routes and deep balls, Harvin unleashes stunning displays of his repertoire on a daily basis. The temptation, then, is to project he’ll rack up 100 or more receptions.
Remember, this was the guy who had 87 catches in 2011 for the Vikings, with the ball being thrown by scattershot rookie Christian Ponder. And he was on pace to have a 120-catch season in 2012 before injuring his ankle against the Seahawks.
But since the Seahawks, as the league’s top scoring defense last season, allowed an average of only 14.4 points a game, the team is never in the kind of scoring shootout that requires the offense to rely on the passing game.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, after all, averaged just 16 completions a game last season. And they can’t all go to Harvin.
But in his infrequent action last season while recovering from hip surgery, Harvin provided tantalizing glimpses, particularly in the Super Bowl, with an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown and two rushes for 45 yards.
And that was with almost no practices and a hip that probably wasn’t at full strength.
Now his engine is tuned, and he uses an interesting word to describe his mastery of the scheme: Fluent.
At this point, Harvin said, he’s finally “fluent.” Used as a term to describe the ability to express oneself articulately and with ease, it’s the perfect explanation of his mixture of speed and fluid motion.
“I’m feeling comfortable with the offense,” Harvin said after Friday’s 41-14 preseason win over San Diego. “I was able to be in there through all the (organized team activities), be with (Wilson) the whole time, and I’m starting to feel comfortable putting practices back to back.”
The tentative plan was to practice Harvin on alternate days, to nurture his health. But he’s gone much harder than that this camp, not only practicing steadily, but revealing a competitive fire that matches that of so many of the Seahawks’ most combative players.
One practice he and safety Earl Thomas went after an overthrown pass so hard they nearly ran into Lake Washington.
A question that followed him to Seattle was whether he was one of those finely tuned athletes that gets dinged up and needs time and special treatment to get back onto the field.
But he took spikes to his heel and limped ominously into the training room one practice, only to return at full speed the next day.
One of the most complimentary things that might be said of Harvin, in fact, is that he fits in with the kind of highly motivated players that occupy the core of this team.
An example: After his four catches in limited action on Friday, he was asked if it felt good to be the team’s leading receiver.
“I don’t care about that,” he said. “My thing is our offense moving the ball. We got points on every drive.”
Reserve quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, a teammate of Harvin’s in Minnesota, has warned people that they’ll be stunned when they see him at full health.
“We’re definitely going to get the ball in his hands and he’ll be a dimension to our offense people won’t believe,” Jackson said. “They’re going to be in for a good show. He goes against our secondary every day, and they’re the best in the league, and he sees that as a challenge. It’s something we get to witness every day in practice and it’s something to see.”
Now that Harvin is healthy, Jackson said, his value to the Seahawks is almost immeasurable.
“People will see what I mean, what I’ve been talking about,” Jackson said. “He’s not just a special player ... he’s one of a kind.”