Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins rookies – led by Ja’Wuan James and Jarvis Landry – already making impact

Miami Dolphins rookie Ja’Wuan James has yielded just one sack in four games, and Pro Football Focus ranks him 10th as a run blocker among 67 tackles and 20th overall.
Miami Dolphins rookie Ja’Wuan James has yielded just one sack in four games, and Pro Football Focus ranks him 10th as a run blocker among 67 tackles and 20th overall. AP

At this rate, by early November, this Dolphins rookie draft class will have played more offensive and defensive snaps than the team’s 2013 rookie draft class logged all of last season.

That’s not surprising, considering Miami played its 2013 draft picks less than any other NFL team last year.

But it’s also a testament to the Dolphins’ top two picks: starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James and receiver Jarvis Landry.

The first quarter of James’ rookie season has been steady, with three penalties the most glaring blemish on a solid body of work.

Landry’s first season has felt at times like a bumpy amusement park ride, good plays mixed with exasperating ones — including two fumbled punts — and a sense of anxiety and adventure whenever he fields the ball on returns.

“They both have made a nice contribution,” coach Joe Philbin said. “Jarvis’ energy has been very good for the team. He’s a hard worker and fearless kind of guy.

“I think Ja’Wuan, the thing that’s really impressive is he’s never been flustered one minute since he’s been here. He’s picked up the system extremely well. He’s got a lot of room for improvement, but I certainly like what he’s doing.”

James, selected 19th in the NFL Draft, already has been an upgrade over Tyson Clabo, who allowed 11 sacks last season, and Jonathan Martin, who has given up three sacks so far for the 49ers.

James has yielded just one sack in four games, and Pro Football Focus ranks him 10th as a run blocker among 67 tackles and 20th overall.

“When I watch him in practice, he carries himself like a veteran,” center Samson Satele said. “It’s ridiculous how calm he is.”

But ask James what he thinks he’s doing particularly well, and he says: “Not really anything. I hold myself to a high standard. I try not to think of myself as a rookie. I know the coaches are trying to do the same. I want to come off this bye and do better than the first four games.”

The good and bad

Landry, praised for his hands throughout the offseason program, has surprisingly dropped the ball four times — two on passes, two others on punts, including one when the ball was jarred loose. He also has made questionable decisions in fielding a couple of punts close to Miami’s goal line.

Landry, who hadn’t returned punts since his sophomore year at LSU, ranks 20th in the NFL in punt return average at 5.7 yards, but is fourth in kickoff returns, with a 29.3 average that is boosted by his 74-yard jaunt against Kansas City.

“I muffed one punt and I fumbled one when I got tackled,” said Landry, who added that he never fumbled a punt in his life before this season. “I’ve put it behind me, but I’m conscious of it because turnovers can cost you victories. I don’t want to say it’s minor. It’s a big deal.”

Despite the two dropped passes, he has caught 67 percent of the balls thrown to him (12 of 18) — which ranks highest among all Dolphins receivers.

And the coaches have such trust in him that they have given him nearly as many snaps (141) as incumbent No.3 receiver Brandon Gibson (151).

“I’m making more positives than negatives,” said Landry, who has 111 receiving yards.

Playing time has been more limited for the other Dolphins rookie draft picks, partly because of injury.

Defensive end Terrence Fede (26 snaps this season) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (four snaps) made their regular-season debuts against Oakland after returning from injury.

Rookie safety Walt Aikens has played only 10 snaps but already has an interception.

“[Fede] is just going to keep getting better,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s a young talented player that has a great attitude and a lot of upside. … Jordan helped out on special teams [against Oakland]. Then, at the end of the ball game, he did a couple nice things in coverage. And you saw Walt Aikens make a great play.”

Other rookies

Among the Dolphins’ other rookie draft picks, tight end Arthur Lynch is on injured reserve with a back injury, guard Billy Turner hasn’t played and receiver Matt Hazel is on the practice squad.

The Dolphins’ rookie draft picks have combined for 483 offensive/defensive snaps in four games. Miami’s 2013 class logged just 867 in 16 games last year.

Meanwhile, beyond special teams, the Dolphins have given 123 offensive or defensive snaps to five undrafted rookies: defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (50), running back Damian Williams (31), running back Orleans Darkwa (13), tight end Gator Hoskins (12) and linebacker Chris McCain (17).

McCain had a sack in the opener but has played only sparingly on defense since and missed the Oakland game because of a death in the family.

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