Brad Childress likes to refer to the old brain teaser, “Where’s Waldo?” On Saturday, the Vikings offense was a version of that game, substituting “Harvin” and “Taylor” and maybe even “Reynaud” for the cartoon drawing of “Waldo.”
The Vikings seemed to go wild in their morning practice with their experimental version the Wildcat offense. Percy Harvin or Chester Taylor in the backfield taking direct snaps. Darius Reynaud as another possibility. Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson out wide. Handoff, pitches, end-arounds. If this keeps up, fans will no longer be able to refer to the Vikings offense as vanilla and the coordinator and head coach as unimaginative.
Darrell Bevell, the offensive coordinator, said having Harvin in the lineup makes his job a little more fun.
“We’re up there trying to diagram everything we can. We’re looking at things we do. We’re looking at things other teams have done,” Bevell said.
And the process of diagramming Percy Plays started as soon as Harvin became the Vikings’ first-round draft pick.
“Coach asked for the plays immediately. As soon as we called his name out, he turned to me and said, 'Hey, where’s the list?' He wanted it immediately,” Bevell said.
Harvin may be glad he had such a strenuous predraft workout routine. That’s coming in handy now that he’s in Minnesota and the coaches have a chance to run him ragged playing the slot, out wide and taking direct snaps in the backfield.
“We’re throwing in some new plays and different looks out there. I know that guy is exhausted because I’m exhausted for him, all the running around he’s doing. He’s a tremendous athlete and he has a lot of ability,” said star running back Adrian Peterson, who was on the field much of the time with Harvin.
Harvin was getting quite a workout during both of the Vikings’ Saturday practices, but he was taking the extra work all in stride.
“They just want me to learn multiple positions. We don’t know quite where I’m going to play right now. I’m just learning kind of a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’m just working hard and whatever they need me to play, that’s what I’ll do.”
But Harvin’s versatility certainly gives Bevell some options he didn’t have with this offense before.
"Anytime you have players who are flexible it lets you do a lot of different things, whether it's Percy or Chester or a lot of guys we can use in different spots,” Bevell said. “I think it presents problems for the defense, which is probably the most important thing for us."
Bevell said the team has implemented about 20 to 30 plays designed to get Harvin the ball. About half of them are new, he said.
But it’s become clear during minicamp that the team plans to use him often and in a variety of ways.
“When you have guys out there with speed, running around in different formations – you’ve got running backs out wide and motioning across and things like that – (defenses) are really going to have to be on top of their game,” Bevell said.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he is glad it’s not his defenders that have to prepare for Harvin as part of a game plan.
"I’m so glad he’s on our team. We don’t have to come up with a plan for him because that’s exactly what you end up having to do is game plan a guy like Percy Harvin,” Frazier said. “Fortunately for us, I’ll be watching other teams try to defend he and Adrian – and good luck to those defenses. We’re fortunate that he’s here.”
Whether it’s just because of Harvin or another way to keep defenses guessing, the early unveiling would indicate that the Vikings offense will have some interesting looks this season.
“You’ve got guys out there – Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Chester, me and the quarterbacks – when you get the majority of those guys on the field you really can create some things,” Peterson said.