One of the greatest aspects of the NFL is to watch an up-and-coming star, fresh out of college, break through onto the professional scene with an outstanding rookie season.
In the past, the player to record the best season among rookies has rightfully earned Rookie of the Year honors. But so much has been made of what happens after that sensational rookie season – how will opposing teams approach playing the well-known Rookie of the Year during his 2nd season?
AP Offensive Rookies of the Year such as Denver’s Mike Anderson (2000) and Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams (2005) recorded standout rookie seasons but fell victims to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Unlike Anderson and Williams, Vikings WR Percy Harvin – the 2009 ROY – shows no signs of experiencing a sophomore slump.
It was unclear at the beginning of the season as to whether or not Harvin would retain his valued characteristics as an elusive slot receiver and big-play kick returner because of reoccurring migraines during training camp, preseason and into the regular season. But as of Week 7 of the 2010 campaign, Harvin’s play is nothing short of spectacular.
More specifically, Harvin has re-launched himself onto the highlight reels since the Week 4 bye and the arrival of veteran WR Randy Moss prior to Week 5. When comparing his first 3 games (without Moss) to his last 3 (with Moss), Harvin has nearly doubled his average receiving yards per game from 35.3 to 61.0 – which seems to be at least partially a result of opposing defenses paying closer attention to Moss.
With Harvin reaping the benefits of a deep threat receiver as a teammate, one of Moss’ former teammates in New England, the team Harvin and the Vikings face this weekend, acknowledged the fact that the mere presence of Moss has a dramatic impact on coverage schemes.
“I think it keeps the defense honest and wanting to make sure he’s not going deep,” Patriots WR Wes Welker said. “You don’t know which play he’s going to all of a sudden take off on you. It definitely can put those safeties in check.”
Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress echoed Welker’s sentiments during his Wednesday press conference.
“I do,” Childress explained when asked if he feels the attention Moss receives results in open looks for other receivers. “Obviously Percy’s had a few good games and good looks at the football. (Visanthe) Shiancoe’s obviously spiked up here last week. You can’t serve all those masters in there. If somebody’s getting doubled, it means somebody’s singled usually.”
Since the bye week and the arrival of Moss, Harvin has not only found rejuvenation in the receiving game, but also on special teams. Harvin’s kick return average over the past 3 games sits at 30.0 yards per return and includes long returns of 44 and 48 yards with a 95-yard TD in the win over Dallas.
“First of all I feel like he’s in good shape,” Childress said of Harvin. “He’s in football playing shape right now. He’s doing a variety of different things, which he’s good at. Whether he’s in the backfield or he’s playing in the slot or he’s playing outside. I think he’s got a decent feel for what he’s doing. He can go full speed. He’s not thinking about much. You see that at practice and practice is carried over to the games.”
The best word to describe Harvin’s impact on the team is versatility. Over the past 3 games, Harvin has averaged 210.6 all-purpose yards per game. And versatility will be a beneficial characteristic when the Vikings face a Patriots defense that ranks 28th overall.
Tags: Percy Harvin, Randy Moss
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