Percy Harvin doesn't see the Super Bowl as a chance at redemption after missing almost the entire season, but he does see it as an opportunity to perform and do what he has been paid quite a bit of money to do. The Denver Broncos are well aware that Harvin is getting that opportunity, and players like Champ Bailey aren't sure exactly what's coming -- other than a talented player (via Pro Football Talk).
"Not sure what to expect. One thing I do know is they will use him," Bailey said on Tuesday. "He’s too good of a player for them not to, so we’ll be prepared for whatever they throw at us."
The Seattle Seahawks sent three draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings last March and signed him to a new deal worth $67 million, but Harvin has only played 38 snaps, including the postseason. Offseason hip surgery and a concussion against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs have set him back, but Pete Carroll is among those who do not expect him to be at anything less than full strength in the Super Bowl. That's a dangerous proposition for the Broncos as they try to prepare for the biggest game that most of them will likely play in.
Veteran cornerback Quentin Jammer will hope to contain his explosiveness (via PFT):
"We don’t really have a lot of film on him," Jammer said on Wednesday. "We do know that he can line up in multiple positions. He can hurt teams from all of those positions so I think we’ll start to prepare for him on kickoff and punt return because that’s usually the first place he makes his mark, is on kickoff. So we’ve got to make sure we get him stopped on kickoff, but as a receiver, he’s just an explosive guy."
Harvin has been a dangerous weapon from nearly every position on the field, including wide receiver, running back, direct snaps from center and leading the league in average yards per kickoff return in 2011 and 2012. He also led the league in broken tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus, despite playing in only nine games. Harvin returned just one kickoff for Seattle this season, and took it for 58 yards against his former team.
It's hard to say that Denver has faced anyone like Harvin this year, because there really isn't anyone like Harvin at all in the league. Perhaps a close comparison could be Dexter McCluster of the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the fastest and most elusive players in the league, though he hasn't been running the ball often recently -- McCluster had just eight carries for 5 yards this season. But in two games against the Broncos, he had a total of 10 catches for 96 yards, a bit higher than his average of 3.5 catches and 34.1 yards per game.
Denver did face Danny Woodhead of the San Diego Chargers, a dual-threat player who had more than 1,000 total yards and eight touchdowns this season (though not quite at the level of Harvin), and managed to contain him to just 41.6 yards per game and one touchdown in three matchups.
It seems as though there is little that the Broncos can do to prepare for Harvin as a kick returner, other than do their best on coverage, but what could they expect from him on offense?
He was targeted just once in the regular season, a bobbling 17-yard catch against the Vikings. But in the playoffs it certainly seemed as though quarterback Russell Wilson was favoring him quite a bit. Harvin played 19 snaps in the Divisional round against New Orleans and saw four targets, catching three passes for 21 yards before leaving the game with a concussion after a big hit from Rafael Bush. Harvin said he was really starting to get in rhythm with Russell up to that point, and that he's not at all concerned about getting their timing right in the Super Bowl after plenty of practices together.
At this point, we have no idea how the Seahawks will actually utilize Harvin in the big game. If we knew that, we wouldn't have scandals like Spygate, we wouldn't remove all of the guess work by the opposing team, and Seattle would lose its advantage of having one of the biggest wild cards in Super Bowl history at its disposal. All we know is that Harvin is ready to play, and that when he gets the ball in his hands, he can be unstoppable.
That's not something Bailey and the Broncos could really prepare for anyway.