Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 30 and the Sept. 13 opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium against Indianapolis.
Percy Harvin was widely seen as a valuable offseason addition. Though it has been a couple of years since he produced at an elite level, his talent to produce that way again is unquestioned. How he exactly fits in Greg Roman's offense will be refined by Buffalo's offensive staff through training camp and the preseason. What is a bit clearer is how he will provide a shot in the arm to a Bills offense looking to take a big step forward.
Big play threatHe has three kick returns for touchdowns in his career that have gone for over 100 yards. There's no debating Percy Harvin's game breaking ability as a return man. His longest play as a receiver in his career however, is just barely more than half the distance of those return touchdowns (53 yards).
Some might be surprised that Harvin's career receiving average is 11.5 yards, but since being traded by Minnesota two years ago he's had more of a jack-of-all-trades role than anything else. In Buffalo that's going to change.
"Percy is a world class athlete that's a very tough, physical, strong football player that we envision being a big factor for us at the receiver position," said Roman. "And I personally think his best days are ahead of him as a receiver, down-in and down-out."
Bills' receivers coach Sanjay Lal set about revamping Harvin's entire route running habits in the second half of last season in New York as the Jets' receivers coach. That process has continued here in Buffalo and Harvin is on the fast track.
"He eats up coaching. He eats up technique," said Lal. "He sees it on film and he'll come out the next day and have it fixed. He's been great about understanding why and how it helps him. It's been a pleasure to work with him."
The more refined a receiver Percy Harvin becomes, the more dangerous he gets. Expected to line up outside consistently, Harvin will force opponents to adjust and respect his downfield speed and ability to stretch a defense.
"Every day coach Sanjay is coming to me with different techniques I can use," said Harvin. "I worked on them and came out here and it looked perfect. I was dying to get with that coach who would sit with me and want to bring the best out of me and since I've been with him he's been doing that. I think this year a lot of people are going to see the end result of it."
Attention grabberPercy Harvin's mere presence on the field is enough to draw attention. Provided Harvin's receiving game continues to develop, it will give opponents a troubling dilemma. Where do they focus their attention when it comes to play calling?
Do they respect Harvin's deep speed and roll coverage over the top so their cornerback doesn't get burned? Do they simultaneously roll a safety to Sammy Watkins' side of the field and play cover two and leave just seven men in the box for LeSean McCoy and the run game? Or do they roll the dice, try to blitz and only play single safety high and hope that deep safety correctly guesses where to provide help?
"Percy is a guy who is an explosive athlete. He's a super talent," said head coach Rex Ryan. "What we're trying to do is take a little pressure off Sammy Watkins. Last year Sammy got doubled almost every snap. With a guy like Percy Harvin that's now going to be difficult to do. Percy can catch a slant and take it the distance and he can go over the top of you. He's a game breaker."
The attention that both Harvin and Watkins will draw outside also provides help to Buffalo's running game.
"When defenses face us they've got to pay attention to those (outside) guys," said Fred Jackson. "When you have guys like Percy (Harvin), Marquise (Goodwin) and Sammy (Watkins) who can blow the roof off a defense they've got to respect that. Guys like us at running back we salivate for that because that means we get to see six, seven-man boxes instead of eight or nine-man boxes. Anytime you get to add receivers who can run by anybody on the field that's a running back's best friend."
"I think that's the beauty of our offense," said Harvin. "Everybody brings so much talent how are teams going to face us? Are they going to try to take away the run? Are they going to try to stop the tight end? Are they going to try to take away the wide receivers? Are they going to use two safeties over the top? Are they going to double team a receiver? Whatever the defense feels like they need to take away we feel we have another option on offense."
"It's going to help everybody," said Watkins of the addition of Harvin to the passing game. "Now we have so many guys—we can run the ball, pass the ball, we can get different matchups that we couldn't get last year. It's a totally different scheme that we have—motion and everything. We're going to be on top of the defense and we're going to have a great game plan come the first game."
VersatilityAs determined as the offensive staff is to get Harvin's game singularly focused on being a receiver, it doesn't mean that Greg Roman's creativity won't enter the picture in a given week from time to time. It might only be a play here or there in a game. We may only see him line up somewhere new once or twice a month this season, but the threat is there and Harvin's versatility can lead to unwanted surprises for Buffalo's opponents.
"His skill set and his skills and his abilities, they can let your imagination go," said Roman. "There's not a lot with Percy where you can say, 'We better not do that with Percy.' You can really just kind of let your imagination run wild and see how it ends up. So, I think Percy can make plays behind the line of scrimmage and behind the defense. There's not a lot of guys that can do that."
"The flexibility he gives you – Percy is one of those rare guys you can put all over," said Ryan. "You can put him in the backfield, run reverses with him, he's an outstanding kick returner. He had a couple of 200 all-purpose yard games for us last year. So we're excited to see what he can do."
"The best is yet to come," said Harvin. "The world has not seen my best ball yet. When I looked at the running game, and I looked at Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods...It spelled nothing but success to me."