Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin will undergo hip surgery today, taking away their biggest offseason acquisition and throwing a wrench into their plans for the upcoming season. Harvin’s absence will not only have a huge impact on the Seahawk’s season in 2013, but it also has the potential to make a significant difference in the NFC West, which is arguably the NFL’s best division, and possibly the entire NFC as well.
Seattle thrived last year under rookie quarterback Russell Wilson because of a great defense and a top-notch rushing game. The addition of Harvin was supposed to give the Seahawks a multi-dimensional threat that could help take their passing game to the next level, as a mobile quarterback like Wilson could do wonders with a player like Harvin that can make plays all over the field and create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Harvin’s presence would also draw a lot of attention, and hopefully open up space for Seattle’s bigger wide receivers on the edge. However, as long as Harvin is out, Seattle’s offense this season will look a lot like its offense from last season.
The loss of Harvin will force Golden Tate back into the starting lineup alongside Sidney Rice. Tate has improved in each of his first three seasons in the league, but he’ll need to take a significant step forward this season, as he and Rice were among the least productive wide receiver tandems in the NFL last season. Both averaged fewer than 50 yards receiving per game last year, and neither was much of a deep threat. Rice led the team with 50 catches, with Tate not far from behind with 45, and while those numbers would be fine to repeat in 2013 if Harvin were in the mix, they will not be sufficient if Harvin misses a majority of the season, which means both Rice and Tate have to be much improved this season.
If the Seahawks can’t get more out of Rice, Tate, and younger wide receivers like Doug Baldwin, they will once again lean on Marshawn Lynch, who gained close to 1,600 yards on the ground last season. Lynch would have been in a better position to be productive in 2013 if the Seahawks were able to spread the field more with Harvin, but they should still be able to rely on Lynch giving them well over 1,000 yards this season, and their rushing game could get even better with the addition of talented rookie Christine Michael.
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But while Seattle’s offense remains in good shape, Harvin could have taken them to another level, and playing at the same level as last season may not be good enough in the NFL’s toughest division. The addition of Harvin made the Seahawks one of the favorites in the NFC, and should have allowed them to at least stay close behind the San Francisco 49ers, but if Seattle isn’t noticeably better on offense than they were last season because they don’t have Harvin, they could have trouble holding off the St. Louis Rams as the second best team in their division.
Arguably the worst part of Harvin’s absence is that the Seahawks don’t know if and when he’ll be able to return. At some point, Seattle will have to make a decision regarding whether to put Harvin on the PUP list, IR with an option to return, or regular IR. With his timetable for a return being so difficult to predict, it won’t be an easy decision to make, although no one would fault the Seahawks for holding out hope that Harvin will be able to return before the end of the season, because he has the potential to be a difference maker for them offensively. But until they know more about Harvin’s status, the Seahawks have to assume that they won’t have him in 2013, which means the personnel on their offense will be largely unchanged from 2012, which should be good enough to get by, but without Harvin it may not be enough to become one of the elite teams in the NFC.