All-22: The '3 R's' of Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin only played eight games with the New York Jets, but during that time he showed that he's a dangerous returner, runner and receiver. Here's an All-22 look at the Buffalo Bills' explosive weapon.

In an offseason where the Buffalo Bills traded for LeSean McCoy and signed Charles Clay, the Percy Harvin signing has flown a bit under the radar. By signing Harvin, the Bills added one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL. Harvin can do a little bit of everything.

Run the ball? Absolutely. Return kicks? Harvin makes it look easy. Play receiver? After 2014, Harvin showed he could play from the slot or from the outside during his stint with the New York Jets. Sanjay Lal, Buffalo’s wide receivers coach, worked with Harvin last season in New York on his route running and Harvin told the Bills website that Lal played a big role in why he chose to sign with Buffalo.

“Going into the second or third game, I felt like I had been playing outside for years,” said Harvin. “Working with him and him being able to get it through to me, the things I needed to work on, whether it was V-cuts or speed cuts or coming out of breaks—we just hit it off. His verbiage was right what I needed. That was all a part of my big decision to come here.”

To get an idea of what Harvin can do for the Bills, I took a look at Harvin’s eight weeks with the Jets. Take a look at some of the ways the Bills can utilize Harvin now that he’s in the fold.

Kick Returns

Harvin is a dangerous kick returner and the Jets utilized him in this role in 2014. With New York, Harvin had 495 kickoff return yards on 20 attempts (24.8 yard average). His longest return during this time was a 65 yard return. Here’s a look at a few of Harvin’s returns with the Jets.

Return 1 and 2: The first two kick returns shown came against the Bills in Week 8. Buffalo finished the year as one of the best special teams units in the league but Harvin was able to use his speed and vision to get kick returns of 35 and 28 yards.

Return 3: The Kansas City Chiefs also had a terrific special teams unit in 2014 but that didn’t stop Harvin from gaining 65 yards on one return. It appears that the kicker trips Harvin on the play which leads to Harvin stumbling at the end of the run. There’s a good chance that the run goes for a touchdown if Harvin doesn’t get tripped up.

Harvin shows patience on two of the returns by following his blocks. On his second return against the Bills, Harvin saw an opportunity to take the kick to the outside and did a nice job of creating for himself.


Harvin wants to be seen as a traditional wide receiver, but his skillset makes it tough to not utilize him on gadget plays. In New York, Harvin ran the ball 22 times for 110 yards (5.0 YPC). His longest run with the Jets went for 13 yards but he was still picking up a good chunk of yardage on average. Here’s a few looks at how the Jets lined Harvin up on his rushing attempts.   

Run 1: Harvin opened the Jets’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 13 yard run. Michael Vick does just enough on his play to make it look like an option run before giving the ball to Harvin. The Jets line does a good job of convincing the Steelers that the play is coming to the right side of the field, which opens up space for Harvin.

Run 2: On 3rd and 2 from their own 19 yard line, the Jets have Harvin run to the right side of the field where he picks up six yards and a first down on the play. Pittsburgh looks like they’re expecting the Jets to run right at them and the gadget play throws them off guard. Buffalo is expected to take a ground and pound approach this season, but they’d be wise to keep teams on their toes with runs like this.

Run 3: In another 3rd down situation, the Jets give the ball to Harvin. Buffalo isn’t fooled on the play but Harvin is too fast and gets to the outside where he picks up nine yards on the play. Running up the gut isn’t a guarantee on third and short with Harvin around.

Run 4: Harvin was also lined up in New York’s backfield at times in 2014. On this play, Harvin gets the pitch and runs to the outside. Aaron Williams does a nice job of essentially blowing up the play. Although he misses the tackle, it pushes Harvin to the inside of the field where Marcell Dareus is waiting. This play probably would have gone for a huge gain without Williams’ play.


In New York, Harvin was lined up all over the field. Harvin caught 29 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown in New York. Here’s a breakdown on his receptions:






Right Sideline





Left Sideline





Right Side





Left Side











Harvin’s one touchdown with the Jets came on the right sideline of the field. By looking at the numbers, it’s apparent that Harvin thrived during his eight games with New York when he was lined up near the sidelines. His 15 receptions on the sidelines went for 230 yards (15.3 YPC) and a touchdown. Here’s a look at some of the receptions Harvin made with the Jets last season.

Reception 1: In Harvin’s second game with the Jets, he caught 11 passes for 129 yards. This first reception is a slant that results in a 21 yard gain. Harvin uses his speed to get some separation from the defender on the play. After catching the ball, Harvin is able to stop on a dime and run past his man. Harvin then causes a second Chiefs defender to miss him before he’s tripped up by a third player. This play does a nice job of illustrating how Harvin can make people miss due to his speed and footwork.

Reception 2: On this play, Harvin is lined up near the right sideline against Sean Smith. Smith, one of the better cornerbacks in the league, keeps up with Harvin on his go route but Harvin is able to make a terrific play on the ball. The gain goes for 42 yards. Teams have to respect Harvin because he is a big play threat.

Reception 3: In Week 14, Harvin had a terrific game against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. Harvin caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown during the game. Here’s a look at the touchdown reception. Harvin lines up against Josh Robinson on the right sideline and runs a go route. Using his speed, Harvin gets a step on Robinson but the most impressive part of the reception is how Harvin plays the ball. He sees that the pass is underthrown and slows down at the end of the play. Harvin adjusts his body and steps in front of Robinson to catch the pass for a touchdown.

Reception 4: Harvin’s longest reception during the game went for 45 yards. There’s a bit of blown coverage which leads to Harvin catching the ball. Upon making the reception, Harvin uses his speed to pick up valuable yards after the catch.

Reception 5: I’ve watched this play over and over again. It wasn’t Harvin’s biggest gain of the season in New York but it’s a perfect example of how teams respect Harvin’s speed. The Vikings cornerback believes that Harvin is running a go route on the play but Harvin stops 15 yards down the field to catch the pass near the first down marker. Harvin’s defender finds himself about seven yards away on the play. If the pass had been more accurate, there’s no telling what Harvin would have been able to do.

Reception 6: In Week 16, the Jets went against the New England Patriots. On this play, Harvin is lined up one-on-one against Darrelle Revis on the right sideline. Harvin fakes as though he’s running towards the sidelines and that creates some separation from Revis. Much like the play above, the pass is a bit off target. Harvin has to catch the ball behind him, which slows down his momentum. The play results in a 25 yard gain, but if Harvin catches the ball in stride there’s a chance the play results in a touchdown.

There were a few other receptions that didn’t make the cut, but Harvin is an impressive receiver. Harvin can successfully play at any of the receiving positions on the field, but he’s shown a lot of growth as an outside receiver. It’ll be exciting to see how the Bills utilize him as a receiver in 2015.

That said, the team should still incorporate some gadget run plays with Harvin. His carries as a Jet didn’t result in any huge gains but he was effective in moving the chains and picking up decent chunks of yards.

As a kick returner, Harvin has the ability to take any return to the house. His vision, footwork and explosiveness make him very dangerous in this role.

The scariest thing about Harvin in the footage above is that he isn’t close to 100 percent. In the second half of the 2014 season, Harvin dealt with rib, heel and ankle injuries. In 2015, a healthy Harvin will be a very dangerous weapon for the Buffalo Bills. 

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