Vikes brainstorm to harness speedy WR
Childress wanted to know how Darrell Bevell would use Harvin, the versatile wide receiver from Florida who will be counted on this season for his ability to catch, run and return kicks.
"As soon as we called his name out, he turned to me and said, 'Where's the list?'" Bevell recalled. "So he wanted it immediately."
Bevell, speaking Saturday between Minnesota's minicamp practices, said there are 20 or 30 plays in the scheme designed specifically for the fleet-footed Harvin, who was selected 22nd overall. Between 10 and 15 of those, Bevell said, were added to the playbook in the past month.
"We're up there trying to diagram everything we can," Bevell said. "We're looking at things we can do. We're looking at things other teams have done and trying to get the ball to our playmakers."
That includes the single-wing formation, which Miami successfully used on the league last year. It starts with a direct snap to a running back and can feature motion in the backfield, fakes and other types of tricks. The Dolphins call theirs the "Wildcat," but whatever the name the concept has caught on.
Harvin took some of those direct snaps during a series of plays the Vikings tested Saturday without a defense on the other side. Running back Chester Taylor and wide receiver Darius Reynaud are also being evaluated in that role.
"They just want me to learn multiple positions," Harvin said. "We don't know quite where I'm going to play right now. I'm just learning kind of a little bit of everything. I'm just working hard and whatever they need me to play, that's what I'll do."
Harvin scored in every game for the Gators last year and averaged 9.55 yards per rush in his three years in college. He's 5-foot-11, shorter than the standard NFL size for receivers, but he makes up for that with exceptional quickness and elusiveness.
Harvin caught plenty of deep balls in practices this weekend, but his best value to the Vikings might ultimately be the way he can keep defenses from focusing solely on All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson by diversifying an offense that has clearly been on the conservative side under Childress.
"Percy is a special athlete. Not only is he a good receiver, but he's got a little bit of that tailback in him," quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. "There is a lot of things that we can do with him, maybe get some mismatches."
Florida used Harvin frequently for direct snaps.
"That is a lot of my versatility," he said.
Peterson, for his part, was excited.
"There's a couple new plays we're throwing in there to see how it works out," he said. "Some of them are looking pretty nice."
The sight of Harvin's speed was pretty nice to Peterson, too.
"I know that guy is exhausted, because I'm exhausted for him -- all the running around he's doing," Peterson said. "He's a tremendous athlete, and he has a lot of ability."
Like any rookie, though, he has much to learn.
"He is very athletic, but in terms of mentally he has struggled a little bit," Bevell said. "It's not something that we didn't expect, because we have really put a lot on his plate."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press