Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into Sunday’s Week Three battle between the Vikings and Lions.
Vikings KR Percy Harvin vs. Lions coverage teams
Vikings special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy said Thursday that Percy Harvin, who has been slowed by migraine headaches and a sore hip, will return kickoffs if he’s out there Sunday. He’s by far the team's best weapon back there, and his two touchdowns were a big, hidden factor in last season’s success. This season, Harvin has returned four kickoffs in two games for a 21.3-yard average and a long of 22.
“We’re making progress. I believe that we are close,” Murphy said when asked if he thought the Vikings were close to popping a long return. “It’s just the consistency of all the players and it's coming, but we are not there yet. It’s just a work in progress at this point.”
Harvin’s explosiveness and the better starting field position that results often put the offense in an advantageous position to start drives. That makes Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Co. more dangerous to opposing defenses when they are backed up closer to their own endzone.
Murphy thinks it’s only a matter of time before Harvin breaks one. Harvin’s health and lack of practice time have been issues, as well as a few moving parts on the kickoff-return team. Adding WR Hank Baskett, a good special-teamer, could help if he’s active this weekend.
“I think that the kickoff return is coming and we’re close, but eventually we need to pop the seal on that and start to create some field position,” Murphy said.
The Lions have done an excellent job through two games of controlling opponents’ kick returns. They have allowed an average of only 19 yards on seven returns. The Lions’ defense isn’t so imposing that scratching out every yard on kick returns is of vital importance. But it certainly couldn’t hurt, either.