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NY Jets: The Harvin Effect

Where have all the targets gone?

Al Bello

The acquisition of Percy Harvin has transformed the Jets offense.  Harvin has instantly become the focal point of the Jets attack.  In terms of aggregate rushing attempts and receiving targets, since Harvin arrived no Jets player has seen more attention on offense.  One question that arises is, how have all those touches been distributed?  Who has lost touches as Harvin has gained them?  Let's take a look.   The following chart lists each listed player's rushing attempts plus pass targets.  For simplicity's sake, let's call the sum "targets", though it goes without saying "targets" is a bit problematic in that target is usually reserved for being targeted in the passing game.  Let's stick with "targets" for lack of a better term and we'll all keep in mind that in this context the term will include rushing attempts as well as passes thrown to the players in question. The chart shows each listed player's targets per game on the season, targets per game for the three games immediately preceding the arrival of Harvin, and targets per game in the three games Harvin has been with the Jets.  As a point of reference, Harvin himself has received 12.7 targets per game in the three games he has played with the Jets.  That figure leads all Jets in those three games.


Targets Per Game, 2014

Targets Per Game,

3 Games, Pre-Harvin

Targets Per Game,

3 Games, Post-Harvin


































Some interesting effects are seen here.  The most notable effect is the nearly complete disappearance of the tight ends since Harvin arrived.  Cumberland and Amaro combined have averaged 7.5 targets per game on the year, and 10.7 targets per game the three games immediately preceding Harvin's arrival (Pre Harvin Games).  In the three games since Harvin's arrival (Post Harvin Games) the tight ends have combined for just 5 targets per game.  Cumberland has completely disappeared, with zero catches for zero yards since Harvin's arrival.  Marty Mornhinweg offenses have rarely featured tight ends.  He has generally preferred pass catching running backs and wide receivers to target.  It appears the arrival of Harvin may have given Mornhinweg the weapons he prefers to run his offense, and the tight ends are being forced into a much smaller role to accommodate Harvin.

Also of note is the disappearance of Jeremy Kerley and Greg Salas.  On the season these two have seen 8.4 targets per game.  In the three Pre Harvin Games, Kerley and Salas combined for 10.7 targets per game.  In the Post Harvin Games Kerley and Salas have combined for only 4 targets per game.  Salas in particular has been completely forgotten.  Of perhaps more interest is Kerley, a player more likely to factor into the Jets long term plans.  Predictably Kerley has virtually disappeared since Harvin's arrival.  This calls into question the timing of Kerley's recent extension.  Kerley would seem to be an afterthought in a Harvin-centric Jets offense, seeing only 3.3 targets per game. That makes him an expensive afterthought if Harvin is retained beyond the 2014 season.  While the need for contingency plans if Harvin is not retained is clear, why enter into a decent sized contract for Kerley before you know whether Harvin will be retained?  Why not wait and see what happens with Harvin before committing to Kerley?  There would seem to be no down side to waiting on the Kerley contract until after Harvin's future is clear.  If Harvin is staying Kerley becomes an afterthought in the offense and the extension he recently entered into appears to be poor value for a Jets team that isn't using him. While the Jets still might have chosen to offer Kerley a contract if Harvin stays, presumably the amount of that offer should be lower if Harvin stays to reflect Kerley's reduced value to the team.  If that meant Kerley would then test the market elsewhere, so be it, as it makes little sense to overpay for an asset not being used. On the other hand if Harvin is moving on the Jets could still have signed Kerley to his current contract terms later, when the Harvin situation became clear.  Without Harvin, Kerley becomes more valuable to the Jets and the contract he recently signed becomes more justifiable.  As a strategic matter for the purpose of roster structuring, the timing of the Kerley extension appears to have been ill advised.

Thus far Eric Decker appears to be unaffected by the arrival of Harvin. In fact, the Jets passing offense now appears to be primarily the Decker and Harvin show, with all other wide receivers and tight ends becoming more or less bit players.  Whether this is a good or bad development is not entirely clear.

The running backs have also been relatively unaffected by the arrival of Harvin.  Bilal Powell has seen a slight uptick in targets which is likely unrelated to Harvin.  Chris Johnson has seen a small reduction in his role that so far appears indistinguishable from random fluctuations.  Somewhat surprisingly it is Chris Ivory among the running backs who has been most hurt by the arrival of Harvin.  In the three Pre Harvin games Ivory had 15.7 targets per game; in the Post Harvin games that number has been reduced to 12.3.  Most of that reduction appears to be accounted for by the elimination of Ivory from the passing game.  Prior to Harvin's arrival, in seven games Ivory had been targeted 18 times, for an average of 2.6 pass targets per game.  After Harvin's arrival Ivory has been targeted in the passing game only 0.7 times per game.  Given Ivory's, ahem, somewhat rudimentary receiving skills, we can probably all agree that the disappearance of Ivory in the passing game in favor of Harvin is probably a good thing.

The arrival of Harvin has predictably had a transformative effect on the Jets offense.  The tight ends and the lesser receivers have been largely displaced in the offense as Harvin has become the primary focal point of the attack.  It will be interesting to watch how this plays out the rest of the 2014 season and beyond.  The future of players like Jace Amaro, Jeff Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley may well hang in the balance of whether or not Harvin remains a Jet after this year.  For Amaro it may mean the difference between being a star and being a steady but largely complementary player.  For Cumberland it may cost him his job with this team, as he has completely disappeared since Harvin arrived.  And for Kerley, if Harvin stays, the Jets may end up with buyer's remorse for a contract that does not reflect the new realities of Kerley's limited role in the offense.