FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Percy Harvin’s role with the New York Jets on Oct. 26 is shrouded in mystery.
The newly-acquired wide receiver could play a few snaps on offense. Or, a lot. He might play in the slot, on the outside running deep patterns or come out of the backfield. Or, all three.
“He’s just getting himself sort of integrated right now, so we’ll see,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “Let’s get to game day here. We’ve got another day and a half here. We’ll see exactly how he can integrate himself for us.”
Thing is, the Jets aren’t quite sure how much of the playbook Harvin will have down by kickoff against Buffalo. And, even if they did, they’ll just keep everyone guessing — especially the Bills.
“Again, he’s been here how many days, six? Six days,” Mornhinweg said. “So it’s been sort of a speed deal here for him. And so things are going to calm down here and then we’ll see.”
Harvin, acquired last week from Seattle for a conditional draft pick, brings a game-changing presence to the passing attack that ranks second-worst in the NFL. He’s a playmaker looking for another chance on an offense that has been searching for someone just like him.
“I’m excited about what he can bring to the table,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “I know that he’s a very dynamic player and he works hard. For the most part, we have to see once we get out there on the field.”
Harvin acknowledged that he was a bit frustrated by the lack of chances he had on deep plays with Seattle, unable to take full advantage of his blazing speed. Coach Rex Ryan intimated that the Jets could use Harvin differently from how he was used by the Seahawks and, before that, the Minnesota Vikings.
“I think he has the tools to do that,” Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. “His natural ability is off the charts. I see the sky’s the limit of what this guy can do.”
That means all bets are off on how Harvin will impact New York’s offense. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that Mornhinweg will tear up the playbook and tailor it to include his new toy. “This isn’t video games,” Smith said. “We’ve got to go out and play football.”
The Jets are mired in a six-game skid and are in danger of losing seven in a row for the first time since Herm Edwards’ last season in 2005. The focus is on Smith, the second-year quarterback who has yet to prove he is the franchise’s answer at the position.
Bringing in Harvin, however, will only help. Adding him to a mix that includes Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland makes a shaky offense suddenly one that could do some damage on the scoreboard. One thing’s for sure: Harvin will return kicks against the Bills. Maybe punts, too.
“All you want to do is try to get the ball in his hands,” Decker said. “I’ve seen it firsthand in the Super Bowl.”
That would be last season, when Decker’s Broncos were getting blown out by the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium, helped by Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return to open the second half.
“He’s very versatile,” Decker said. “After you get the ball in his hands, he can do some explosive stuff.”
But make no mistake about it: The Jets view Harvin as much more than just a gadget-type player who can catch a defense off guard and make an opponent pay with a long play. He was brought to New York to be a significant part of the offense, but the question remains whether that begins this weekend or later this season.
“The fine line is he’s been here such a little (bit of) time,” Lal said. “By overloading a player like this, you don’t want to take away his speed. So if he’s thinking too much in a game, if you overload him mentally, he won’t play fast.”
Lal has spent several hours with Harvin during the last few days, reviewing the playbook in one-on-one meetings at the team’s facility. It’s a crash course scenario that has included practice and brainstorming sessions.
And, Harvin has made quite the first impression. Lal shook his head when asked if he’s ever coached a wide receiver quite like Harvin.
“No,” Lal said firmly. “And that’s a compliment.”
Harvin’s athletic ability will allow Mornhinweg to potentially get creative, as he did in Philadelphia when he had do-it-all receivers such as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. That, of course, could mean only good things for the Jets’ offense.
Whether that means five snaps or 50 on Oct. 26. “It does influence the rest of the fellas,” Mornhinweg said. “We’re going to do what we do and try to integrate him just a little bit there. We’ll see what happens.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)