Jarvis Landry was the star of training camp Saturday.
He turned bubble screens into big gains. He took a reverse and hurdled upfield. And he badly fooled slot corner Brice McCain to get open for a chains-moving completion.
Landry is the early favorite to be the Dolphins’ No. 1 option this year — only Mike Wallace was targeted more in 2014 — and here’s the biggest reason why:
Even after shredding the defense Saturday he spent an additional 10 minutes running post routes for Tannehill following practice.
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“Just a ball I missed during the last period there,” Landry said of the extra work. “Just getting our timing down. End point, strike point. And me being able to catch that ball, display the trust we have in each other, and make that play.”
Trust is the key word at a position that had little in 2014. Wallace’s Week 17 tantrum was the the worst of it, but the issues between Tannehill and his receivers began months earlier.
Behind the scenes, Wallace and Brian Hartline were in near-rebellion for much of the season’s second half. Neither was pleased with how he was used. It’s no coincidence that they’re gone, and Landry has been elevated.
Landry caught 84 balls as a rookie. If things break right, the team receptions record of 90 (set by O.J. McDuffie in 1998) could fall before Christmas.
“I’m not making predictions, but at the same time, I want to be great,” Landry said. “I think I’m here for that reason.”
Added new teammate Greg Jennings: “He made the statement that, ‘I may not be the fastest,’ or something like that. But he said, ‘I’m catching everything that comes in my direction.’ Just that mind-set alone will allow for him to be great, because being around him, his football IQ for a guy who’s in his second year, hasn’t even started his second-year season, is unbelievable.”
That’s not to say Landry is slow. He spent the offseason with Pete Bommarito, a local trainer who works with pro athletes on speed, strength and skill development.
Landry wanted to improve his breakaway speed — he averaged just 9 yards per catch last season — and to eliminate wasted movement. He said he already has seen results, adding that he has put together “three great days so far.”
Landry also spent time this offseason bending the ear of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, the Miami native who broke Pittsburgh’s franchise receiving record in 2013 and then again in ’14.
“We trained together a few times,” Landry said. “Just [to] measure my craft. A lot of it was just mental. Just him talking to me, trying to get my mind right about the season and things to come, and the attitude you take when you have the ball in your hands.”
Landry flourished as the Dolphins’ slot receiver as a rookie but doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. Already this camp he has worked out of all three receiving positions, and coach Joe Philbin praised his football acumen.
“I think his expectations are even higher, which I think is a great thing,” Philbin said. “You want to coach players that want to contribute, want to make a difference, want to make an impact, and he’s certainly one of those guys. He loves coming out here. He wants to be involved and he wants to make a difference. Yeah, I’m excited about what he can do for us.”
Hitting on a few of those post patterns would be a great start. Tannehill’s struggles with the deep ball are well documented; maybe Landry could help end them.
“Very important,” Landry said when asked about cashing in on those plays. But they only come with “trust,” he reiterated.
He certainly trusts his ability.
Landry’s hands are among the best in the league, and yet he still ended Saturday’s long morning by catching more than 50 balls from the Jugs (football-passing) machine.
The way he figures, the balls fire out of the slingshot faster than they will Tannehill’s right hand, so the repetition can only help.
And if you can develop good habits with the little things, perhaps it will lead to better habits with the big ones.
“I come from a winning culture, a winning culture where I may have lost five or six games in a lifetime,” said Landry, who played in college at Louisiana State. “To me, even the mind-set of being a .500 team is not good enough. I know the history of this organization. But at the same time, we all have to have the mentality that we’re going win the game before it’s even played. Continue to do that, play harder and within ourselves, I think we can be a team to be reckoned with.”
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