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Percy Harvin activated from PUP list: His role in the offense and explosive plays as force multipliers

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks have officially activated Percy Harvin from the PUP list, releasing DT Michael Brooks to make room on the roster. From what Pete Carroll was saying this morning, it's looking like they'll try to have Harvin practice fully this week and go from there; barring any setbacks, we could see Percy in limited action as soon as this weekend. Per a source of Adam Shefter's, it would be considered an 'upset' if Harvin were unable to go Sunday against his former team, the Vikings.

Jacson and I were having a little back-and-forth this afternoon about the future of Golden Tate on this roster, and I figured this would be as good of a place as any to point out a few items about what the addition of Harvin means to the offense and why having Tate and Harvin in the same offense is potentially game-changing. As we saw on Sunday against the Falcons, Tate is an explosive, 'big-play' type of receiver that can make spectacular catches down the sideline, over the middle, in space, and flip the field in the kicking game, and what Percy brings to the table is a similar (yet unique) skill-set and ability.

First, some numbers:

According to Football Outsiders, in 2012, no receiver had more total broken tackles (19) than Percy Harvin (Harvin only played in nine games... so that context is bananas). Similarly, in 2012, no receiver had more broken tackles per touch than Golden Tate (context here is that Tate's volume of touches was lower).

This year, as a corollary to the ability to consistently break tackles, Golden Tate is averaging 8.9 yards after the catch (per ProFootballFocus), which is tops in the NFL at the receiver position. Wanna know who led the NFL in that category last year? Percy Harvin.

Why is this ability important?

The Seahawks are a team that values toughness, ball control, and want to punch you in the face and wear you down as the game goes on. Shortly, they should have the two toughest-to-tackle receivers in the NFL on the field at the same time.

Of course, Seattle will also have Marshawn Lynch on the field - a guy that presently sits at 518 yards rushing after contact, 2nd in the NFL only to Adrian Peterson. Harvin, Tate, and Lynch will be receiving handoffs or passes from Russell Wilson.

This matters. More so to this team than perhaps other teams. Why? Pete Carroll believes passionately in creating explosive plays and the power that a team can derive from those types of momentum shifters. Having the players capable of creating these plays at any given time means that the Seahawks have increased their power to hit on those plays exponentially. Adding another home-run threat into the mix means the defense has yet another threat to account for.

I believe that Pete Carroll sees 'explosive plays' - runs of 12+ yards and catches of 16+ yards - as force multipliers.

The D.O.D. defines a "force multiplier" as "a capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment."

Examples of so-called force multipliers in a military sense include superior technology, favorable geographical features and/or advantageous weather. These can apply to football as well. For instance, better technology in the weight room, practice field, meeting rooms, lunch rooms, etc, can change the dynamic of a team. The idea of using geographical features and weather as a force multiplier relates to the idea of homefield advantage - in Seattle, it's the crowd noise, cold, rain, etc.

Other military force multipliers that can be directly related to football include superior training and/or experience, a fearsome reputation, successful deception, and better morale. Teams can be generally confident, but morale seems to be a pretty variable and fickle beast. Explosive plays - if morale is down - can be powerful to swing the esprit de corps.

I think that Pete Carroll loves the explosive play because he believes they become force multipliers in that they have a great influence over morale. Will the addition of Percy Harvin's dynamism to this offense help to increase exponentially the Seahawks' ability to make explosive plays? That's what I'm hoping for, eventually.


I think it's important to note, though, that while Tate and Harvin have some similarities in playing style, they'll be used differently in the offense and actually do play different positions.

First off, Tate has taken full control of the X spot on the outside - this position is also called the split end - and playing this role requires a certain mindset and tool box. Harvin, meanwhile, is likely to be primarily a slot receiver, but in my mind, will be used all over the formation as a joker of sorts - in motion frequently, in the backfield, running vertical and width-gaining routes to exploit weaknesses in the defense. On the outside, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are likely to rotate at the Z position - this is the old Sidney Rice spot, and it's also called the 'flanker.'

As a precursor to Percy's return, it's worth reviewing the differences between the three spots, because each 'role' has different responsibilities and defining characteristics. Also, it's worth pointing out that Percy can probably play the slot and the Z, and did so in Minnesota. He could most likely even fill in at the X spot if needed.

Former Husky/NFL QB and now KJR analyst Hugh Millen broke down the differences in the spots in detail last year, and I wanted to re-post them here.

"I think it's a lot like in baseball, you know, the difference between a second baseman and a third baseman," said Millen, when asked to describe the differences between X and Z. "You know, they're both infielders, but their job duties are much different, and so it goes with wide receiver. It's also like in basketball - everyone knows who the '3' and the '4' are, and that's been committed to the average fan's memory, but I always thought that X and Z would be similarly committed to memory as well."

They're not, really. So, he went on, "Ok, so the wide receivers are designated with the term "X" and "Z" and it's been that way for decades. The X receiver is the split end. He is the widest receiver away from the tight end. What's unique about him, -- as opposed to the Z receiver, who is the flanker, and the other wide receiver -- is that the X receiver, in most formations, and of course, there are a lot of exceptions, but in most formations, the X receiver, the split end -- and those expressions are used synonymously -- he is tethered to the line of scrimmage."

"He's on the line of scrimmage, he cannot go in motion, and so, when he's facing a cornerback, as he almost always is, the cornerback can jam him at the line. So, your X receiver, he better have the profile of a guy that has the speed to get down the sideline, he better have the quickness to get away from the corner, and he better be good coming off a press."

Golden Tate.

"In almost all routes, that corner has him in man-to-man. Now, if he runs a shallow cross and it's zone, then the corner will let him go, but most routes up the field, that corner's going to be covering the wide receiver, man-to-man. Now, who is a corner? In the NFL, the corner is the guy on the playground, when you play tag, that always won. He's got that great agility. He is the cheetah running down the gazelle on the Serengeti. The corner is the best athlete on the football field, and I'll even include receivers and running backs, in that group, because think about the skill-set for a cornerback. He doesn't have to have great hand-eye coordination. He just has to be able to follow you. And, so those guys are hard to beat, and particularly for an X receiver, if he's getting a jam on you, you gotta have that ability to get off the line of scrimmage."

This is why the question exists as to whether or not a receiver that has had success on the inside, in the slot, can easily move to the outside. It's not just a matter of running different routes.

"Now, the Z receiver, the 'flanker,' who is on the opposite side of the split end, he, in most formations, is going to be off the line of scrimmage a few yards. That enables the tight end to be eligible, because if the Z receiver were on the line, it would make the tight end ineligible. That flanker, that Z receiver -- and again, those terms are synonymous --that is still a wide receiver. He's going against cornerbacks, he has to be able to have the speed and the acceleration to beat cornerbacks, but, from time-to-time, you can run him in motion because he's off the line of scrimmage, you can get him down in the slot and run for passes over the middle, so, there's a little bit of the characteristics of a slot receiver inherent in the Z receiver. But, by and large, those guys are much different than the slot receiver."

This is the role that Kearse and, ostensibly, Doug Baldwin are slated to rotate in at. I do believe both can function very well there. I would imagine Percy gets some time at the Z spot too. Part of the value of Kearse is that he has experience in all three spots, and I'm guessing there will be a good amount of rotating, as I'd say pretty much every Seahawk receiver right now can play all three spots.

As for the slot, where I'd expect to see Harvin make his hay:

"From the slot standpoint, in zone coverage, a linebacker will usually walk out and kind of be head-up over you, if you're a slot receiver, and you've kind of got to be able to beat a linebacker. But, he's not going to trail you - he'll pass you over in zone, so if you're a slot receiver..., he's now going in between the safeties, and the linebackers, and he's got an entirely different challenge to beat those defenders, than he would when he's lined up as a wide receiver (X or Z)."

This is why Harvin becomes dangerous - with Percy on the field, you're going to see him matched up against linebackers at times - and this is a huge matchup advantage for the Seahawks. Conversely, if the opposing defense responds with a nickelback instead of a linebacker in order to match up with Percy, Seattle will have an easier time, in theory, running the football.

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