Cleveland Browns: No one is afraid of Jarvis Landry

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 31: Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during pregame against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 31: Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during pregame against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns added a slot receiver that defenses love when they acquired Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins.

Fans and media alike declared the Cleveland Browns back upon seeing the news that the Browns traded for Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins. The Browns valiantly fended off the Baltimore Ravens and no one else for the services of a slot receiver that puts up a lot of empty calories, but doesn’t make a meaningful difference for a team.

Landry has caught 400 passes over his first four seasons and made the Pro Bowl three times. These are impressive feats, but there’s a reason they have happened and it’s not because Landry is a great receiver. It’s largely because it’s a winning formula for the other team.

A defensive staff is preparing to take on the Browns for the week. Right away they have to figure out how to account for Josh Gordon. He’s a gamebreaker that is a threat to score on almost any play. David Njoku is a 250-pound tight end that runs like a gazelle. If they don’t account for him, he can break a big play and score. Duke Johnson is a matchup problem who’s really dangerous after the catch.

Who’s worried about Landry in the slot? No one. Herein lies the problem. Landry officially becomes the least athletic skill player on the team. Less athletic than Dan Vitale, the team’s fullback. Less athletic than Tyrod Taylor, the team’s new starting quarterback.

So even if Landry catches the ball, he’s not really a threat after the catch, averaging 5.1 yards yards after the catch per reception over his career. Factoring in the fact his overall average per reception is 10, that means Landry is catching the ball basically five yards past the line of scrimmage.

A defense can have a linebacker or slot corner take care of that effectively. Or just drop into a soft zone and then tackle him after he catches it. Unless he goes deeper down the field, he’s not a huge concern. There is quite literally no one a defense would rather have with the ball in their hands, because he is the least threatening.

They have to stop Gordon, make sure Njoku is accounted for, deal with players like Duke and Coleman, even if it’s just a single player matching up on them. Teams will let Landry catch the ball, because he’s not threatening. They don’t want to let him run free, but they’ll let him catch a five yard pass and then tackle him short of the first down.

For his career, 54.5 percent of the time Landry catches the ball, he gets a first down. By comparison, Seth DeValve has converted 65 percent of his receptions for first downs in his first two seasons. He does that while being almost 40 pounds heavier, more athletic and averaging more per reception.

Just by the numbers, if a defense plays good run defense and makes sure no one else kills them in the passing game, they’re going to get off the field basically in two sets of downs. Landry piles up numbers over the course of the game, which look good on a stat sheet, but mean little in terms of impacting the game, because the opponent is happy to let him get the ball and just tackle him, forcing them to punt it away.

In games Landry led the Dolphins in receiving yards, they notched a 7-15 over the course of his four year career. Their overall record over that span is 30-35, so they are 23-20 in games where anyone else leads the team in receiving yards. It’s a simple formula. Make Landry beat you.

No defensive coordinator is worried about Landry. As long as teams are throwing the ball to Landry, they aren’t throwing the ball to difference makers that can actually win the game, can force the offense to punt the ball away and ultimately win the game. Landry gets a trip to Hawaii and the team ends up going 5-11.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks want to complete passes. So when Gordon or Njoku are covered but might have opportunities, the quarterback may just go ahead and complete the sure thing in the wide open Landry underneath that gets tackled short of the sticks. It looks good on his stat sheet. Unfortunately, the offense goes nowhere. It’s a trap and most quarterbacks will fall into it.

Landry is getting paid just shy of $16 million to be the guy no one fears this season. In a vacuum, it’s as unimportant as the money paid to Brock Osweiler last year, but there should be zero talk of a contract extension. Landry would be a fool to take an extension to get paid what he’s actually worth. That would mean the Browns are prepared to give him about $10 million per year, which is utterly insane for what he’s actually doing.

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The best case scenario for the Cleveland Browns is that Landry plays out this year, racks up a ton of yardage and goes to the Pro Bowl again. At that point, the Browns let him walk and some other team gives him the contact they’ll regret the Browns are hopefully too smart to offer.  The Browns effectively get back what they paid to get to obtain Landry in the form of compensatory picks that can be used for more useful pieces to the team. If that’s the plan, it’s a brilliant one, but in the mean time, Jarvis Landry is the type of player that will put up numbers, but won’t win games.