We spent so much time this offseason discussing Percy Harvin's playing time as the Minnesota Vikings' erstwhile No. 1 receiver that I feel compelled to bring you a relatively important development from Sunday's season-opening victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Harvin played nearly 80 percent of the Vikings' snaps (47 of 59), according to tracking at Pro Football Focus (PFF). That's a significant uptick from his 2011 deployment, when he played 58.4 percent of their snaps even while producing a career season in a newly versatile role as a receiver/running back.
Admittedly, the Vikings are depleted from a personnel sense given Jerome Simpson's three-game NFL suspension and the loss of rookie Greg Childs (knees). Fellow rookie Jarius Wright was deactivated for the game because of an ankle injury, so the Vikings essentially used only three receivers with second-year player Stephen Burton mixed in occasionally.
According to PFF, here's how the Vikings dispersed playing time among their top pass catchers during their 59 offensive plays:
Tight end Kyle Rudolph: 59
Receiver Michael Jenkins: 47
Receiver Devin Aromashodu: 25
Tight end John Carlson: 18
Harvin, for one, responded with 192 combined net yards (84 receiving, 20 rushing and 88 on three kickoff returns). That qualified as a franchise record for a season opener, according to the team.
"We're always trying to find ways to get him the ball, and we'll continue to do that and give it to him in different ways," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's such a factor with the ball in his hands, even if you have to do it on those smoke screens that we ran in this game. Whatever you have to do to get the ball in his hands to give him a chance to make plays, we've all seen the results of it."
I suppose there could be some concern about wearing Harvin down over the long term. But as we discussed in the offseason, Harvin is too young in football terms to be on a pitch count. He turned 24 in May and should be in his athletic and conditioning prime. The Vikings simply aren't deep enough to compete with one of their best players resting on two out of every five plays, as Harvin did last season. I'm sure he wouldn't want it any other way.