Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry has had a strong first two NFL seasons to begin his career, but how good can he be?
In his first two seasons in the NFL, Jarvis Landry has become Miami Dolphins Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s go to receiver, as well as his safety valve. With Tannehill leading the lead in times sacked each of his first four seasons, Landry has become a key fixture for Tannehill to target when he is in trouble.
In his rookie season in 2014, Landry caught 84 receptions on 111 targets. However, he accumulated just 758 yards for the season, for a mere average of 9.00 YPC (yards per reception).
That YPC mark improved a bit in his sophomore season, as did the rest of his numbers, as he caught 110 balls on 165 targets. His yards jumped to 1,157 for the 2015 season and his YPC sat at 10.5. The 110 catches and 1,157 yards were both Dolphin team records.
Landry also added 18 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown in 2015. He also completed the only pass he threw, in 2015 and for his career, for 9-yards.
In addition to the offensive numbers, Landry has been a strong special teams player for the Dolphins. He has been the main kickoff and punt returner for the team the past two seasons, although this is a role he could relinquish in 2016, with all the return talent the Dolphins brought on board.
Two weeks ago, NFL.com rated Landry as the 98th best player in football. Pro Football Focus rated Landry as the 86th best player in the NFL, on their top 101 player list. This is what PFF had to say about Landry’s 2015 season:
"Some people view slot receivers as a bit-part role player with limited value, but Landry was one of the best receivers in the game in 2015 operating largely from the slot. Of 891 snaps, Landry spent just 270 of them lined up out wide, but still caught 110 passes, posted 1,157 yards and forced 28 missed tackles after the catch to go along with another dozen on the 18 carries he had.Best performance: Week 2 at Jacksonville: +4.6 gradeKey stat: Landry forced the second-most missed tackles at 28"
However, even with all these statistical successes, Landry still feels he has more to prove on the field. Landry believes he can be more explosive in the upcoming 2016 season.
He may have a point as well. While Landry was regarded as one of the better receivers last year, slot receivers usually have a lower ceiling, though what Landry did in a passive offense should actually translate well into a more aggressive offense run by rookie coach Adam Gase.
For his career, Landry owns a mere 9.9 YPC, which has limited his upside his first two seasons. His low YPC limits his ceiling to more of a number two receiver in a good offense, instead of the number one guy he likely wants to be.
Former Dolphin receiver (albeit in a limited stint) recently tweeted out his expectations for Landry in the upcoming season:
Based on his career YPC, it would take Landry 148 receptions in 2016 to reach that 1,475 yard plateau. Going by his 2016 YPC rate, it would take Landry 137 receptions to get to the 1.475 yards mark.
For context, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver led the NFL with 136 receptions last season. That mark is second in NFL history to Marvin Harrison’s 143 receptions in 2002.
Either way, Landry is a long-shot to reach that mark, unless he has a season for the ages and shatters some NFL records. Or he improves on his YPC rate.
For these reasons, it is easy to see why a player the caliber of Landry has a limited upside, as do most slot receivers in the NFL. This has actually led Landry to be an overrated WR, but still a damn good one that team quarterbacks would yearn for.
However, former Dolphin head coach Joe Philbin had a conservative offense, one that limited the upside of all of his offensive players. Philbin also did not trust his QB Tannehill, which overall hurt the Dolphins offense at times over the past few seasons.
This was one of the reasons why Philbin, aka “The Nothing Man,” failed in his stint as a head coach.
In 2016, the Dolphins have gone in a different direction, with Adam Gase, who even made Tim Tebow look good for a short period, now leading the Dolphins franchise as the head man.
Gase, unlike Philbin, actually has a history of being a player caller as an offensive coordinator and has an aggressive offensive identity. Gase has also stated that the coaches will entrust Tannehill more for the upcoming season.
In 2016 under Gase, Tannehill will have more of a say on the plays called, be able to audible at the line of scrimmage, and not have to constantly look behind his back to see if his coaches will have his back when he has a bad game or two.
This should have a positive effect on Tannehill’s game. Which should actually carry over to his offensive play makers as well.
In addition to that, with their first round selection of Laremy Tunsil, the Miami Dolphins offensive line will be the best (at least on paper) that it has been the entirety of Tannehill’s career in Miami. This should also have a positive effect both on Tannehill and his playmakers, including Landry.
How does this inversely affect Landry?
Instead of serving as Tannehill’s safety valve and running short, simple routes, Landry will have the luxury of being able to run more deep, complex routes that could lead to more yards per reception.
As the PFF stat above showed, Landry only lined up outside last year 270 times in 891 snaps. With a more creative coach calling the shots, there’s a good chance Landry will be able to line up all over the field this upcoming season, including in the backfield, with plenty of questions surrounding the Dolphins running backs.
However, when the time comes for Jarvis to ask for a max contract, the Dolphins would be better off letting him walk.
Landry’s first two seasons, while they have been pretty impressive, have shown that like most slot receivers, he has a limited upside and ceiling. However, there is a chance that Landry can expand his game under rookie head coach Adam Gase, which would give him a shot at reaching Ocho Cinco’s lofty goal of 1,475 yards for Landry.