It was only one practice. It lasted less than half of that practice. But the impact that Percy Harvin made on observers while running a version of the Wildcat offense was lasting.
Harvin is one of three players – running back Chester Taylor and wide receiver Darius Reynaud being the other two – the Vikings are experimenting with as the Wildcat, the player who is usually a wide receiver or running back that takes a direct snap and then runs one of several offensive specialty plays designed to confuse the defense and utilized the special skills of the new "quarterback."
Harvin's quickness was especially obvious when he got the ball in his hands, juking defenders and making would-be tacklers miss with his short-area moves.
"I know he ran around the end on me pretty good. I thought it was a bootleg, so that was kind of tight," defensive end Jared Allen said after one of his first minicamp practices with Harvin.
Cornerback Benny Sapp, who was getting extensive time as the nickel back with the absence of Antoine Winfield at the offseason workouts, seemed impressed with Harvin as well.
"Good, young player. He's going to have a productive career in the NFL," said Sapp, who also practiced against Harvin in the earlier organized team activities before minicamp. "For him, you just have to line up, can't guess, and just play football."
For one practice, at least, it was all about the many different ways in which the offensive minds on the team could use Harvin. He was out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield during motions and set taking direct snaps.
So what does that do to a defender? Defensive tackle Kevin Williams got his first extensive taste of it during minicamp. The biggest thing, according to Williams, is to not get away from the fundamentals as a defender, even though the offense is far from using a fundamental formation.
"Really, it's just playing your keys," Williams said. "You're getting the same reads, the same blocking schemes. You're just staying true to your keys and basically staying at home. You can't be fooled by some of the trickery stuff, the motion and all that stuff. Read your blocks and the blocker will take you to the ball."
That might be easier said than done, even for a perennial Pro Bowler like Williams. But Williams isn't among the 13 defensive coordinators who had better be prepared for at least the possibility that Harvin would be the first person to touch the ball after the snap from center.
"I'm so glad he's on our team so we don't have to come up with a plan for him because that's exactly what you have to do is game-plan a guy like Percy Harvin," Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Fortunately for us, I'll be watching teams trying to defend him and Adrian (Peterson), and good luck to those teams. We're fortunate he's here."
With the way NFL teams copy success throughout the league, several teams built off of Miami's success with the Wildcat last year. Running back Ronnie Brown, the Dolphins' main Wildcat, threw the ball only three times last year, connecting on two of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings didn't use the formation last year, maybe because they didn't feel they had an athlete like Harvin to fully take advantage of the possibilities. Or maybe because they didn't want to take the time during the season to practice it.
Quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who joked about his receiver abilities when the formation is used, said the offseason is the time experiment. But after seeing it in action, Williams believes the formation is here to stay.
"We've definitely got the players to do it and I guess we're experimenting with it now. I guess it will stay. If we have some success with it, it's definitely going to stay," Williams said.
Wildcat affects the other side
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