Leslie Frazier hasn’t confirmed this yet but it looks like the plan is for Percy Harvin to return all kickoffs Sunday against the Jaguars. That’s what special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said anyway. This is interesting because, last year, the Vikings chose to limit Harvin’s exposure on kickoffs, a plan that resulted in Harvin returning only 16 kicks all year. This was not only to protect Harvin from injury, it was also to keep him fresh so he could be used more in the offense.
This once again opens up the same old question: Will employing Harvin on kickoffs mean yanking him for the first couple plays of each ensuing offensive series, assuming he doesn’t take a knee or house the kick? If so, we’re back to the same old debate about how best to use Harvin. Obviously he’s a major weapon on kickoffs and you want that lighting strike capability in there, but is it worth it to use him that way when you know it will mean using him less in the regular offense?
It’s fairly clear what Percy’s feeling on the matter is. He wants to be out there on kickoffs. I have no proof but I suspect the kickoff issue was at the heart of Percy’s little minicamp trade-demand tantrum. If Leslie Frazier had his way, he would use someone else to return kicks, and save Percy for the offense. But Percy has different ideas, and I suspect he forced the issue with management and that’s why now they’re bowing to his wishes and using him on kickoffs.
It remains to be seen whether this plan is wise or not. If Percy houses one on the first kick of the season like he did last year, it will momentarily look like a great plan. But later on the same concerns will creep in about whether his return duties are cutting into his offensive production. The Vikings need to be smart with how they use Percy. If they employ him correctly he can be a great weapon for them. But we also know how fragile he can be.
Oh, incidentally, Priefer also announced that Marcus Sherels will be the #1 punt returner. That’s no surprise either as they really don’t have anyone else who makes sense in that role. They tried Jarius Wright in preseason but with mixed results. Newly-acquired A.J. Jefferson can also supposedly return punts but so far the Vikings are not looking at using him in that capacity.