No matter the business, you’ll find those who avoid bearing the tonnage of expectation the way some wide receivers avoid cutting over the middle. You won’t find Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry in either group.
Landry has led the Dolphins in receptions in each of the past four games by going where things can get nasty, no matter how the NFL tries to soften the blows. His team-high 57 catches come with a 9.1 yards-per-catch average that doesn’t get you hot, but keeps drives cooking.
“There was no question I would do anything for my teammates,” Landry said. “If going across the middle was that, then going across the middle was what I’d do. That’s been my mind-set since high school.”
Ask Dolphins coach Joe Philbin what stood out about Landry to believe he could be a consistent producer and he’ll say, “He was tough. He was competitive on tape. He appeared to be fearless on tape. He would go across the middle and compete for balls. It didn’t matter if it was a linebacker, safety or corner covering him. I think his competitive nature is was what really stood out and he had, we thought, outstanding hands.”
A few plays from Landry’s 10-catch, 156-yard game against Georgia last year still stand out in Philbin’s head as forming an impression confirmed even during the preseason opener against Atlanta.
“It’s not that he’s been perfect,” Philbin said. “There have been some things he needs to develop and improve and get better at. Really since the first game we’ve played, we kind of use that term ‘football player.’ I throw that around sometimes and I think that applies to him. I think he’s kind of a football player.”
Most catches in a season by Dolphins rookie
Terry Kirby (1993)
Jack Clancy (1967)
Jarvis Landry (2014)
Davone Bess (2008)
Chris Chambers (2001)
*Through 12 games
Philbin used that term the same way Hall of Fame coach John Madden used it in his book One Knee Equals Two Feet for Hall of Fame Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka, whom Madden coached in the Pro Bowl. Madden recalled Csonka’s willingness to play anything, even special teams.
Funny enough, Landry has already been honored as an AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for his work as a kickoff and punt returner.
However much the Dolphins expected from Landry once they made him a second-round pick put nothing on his shoulders he didn’t squat for reps before. First off, he comes from Louisiana, which lacks the volume of Florida, California or Texas, but might be more talent-thick considering per capita production of NFL players.
“It’s just how the athletes are bred,” said Dolphins defensive lineman Anthony Johnson, a first-team USA Today high school All-American and Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2010. “We love football down there. We’re not as big as Alabama or Texas. But when it comes to that sport, we’re so passionate, we’ve got a lot of guys who come from the Bayou. A lot of the great coaches in college now come from that place. It’s just tradition built in football.”
So it’s no surprise most of the reaction Landry has gotten from back home has been, according to him, “Knew you could do it.”
After all, Landry came out of Lutcher (Louisiana) High School rated among the top five wide receivers in the nation and matriculated to the local NFL Draft factory, LSU. There, Landry wound up bumping his head on the gumbo ceiling, not becoming a starter until his junior year. That’s the kind of thing that can make some highly touted high school prospects run to pout.
“In college, you go from being the guy at your high school, or even in your town, period, to being around a bunch of five-star recruits, guys who have been there and played before,” Landry said. “I was fortunate enough to play with a couple of first-round draft picks. I think, in college, it was the same approach that I have now, which is to go out and show people that I can make plays.”
So far, his reasoning, that the NFL shouldn’t work any differently, seems sound.
“I feel like, for me, my thing was always based off of the confidence that I have,” Landry said. “It makes no sense to put pressure on myself or anything, but just trust in my ability, knowing that I was going to do things, knowing that I was going to make plays, just letting it happen. I guess that was the expectation.”
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebacker Chris McCain, both with ankle injuries, were listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. Tight end Charles Clay (hamstring/knee) is listed as questionable.
Baltimore listed no doubtfuls, but cornerback Tremain Jacobs was downgraded to out for Sunday’s game.