It’s been a very good 10 days or so for Jarvis Landry.
The Miami Dolphins leading receiver has been practicing hard, which is common, but his attention to detail on the field, his honing of his technique, and route running, and his note-taking in meetings has been so good that coaches are privately elated.
They’re hopeful this improvement in Landry doing the little things might lead to, you know, big things. Like on the field -- where everyone can see the fruits of Landry’s clandestine labor.
That’s good because the Dolphins need their best wide receiver to keep catching passes at a team record-breaking pace. And they need Landry to improve on a curious statistic that’s keeping him and perhaps the offense from doing the kind of damage everyone expected when the season began.
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That troublesome stat is Landry’s 7.7 yards per catch average. It’s anemic for any wide receiver. For an elite receiver it is, well, not elite.
Landry entered the weekend games third in the NFL with 56 catches. But that 7.7 yards per catch ranks 131st among pass catchers who’ve caught enough passes to qualify. Indeed, the league average yards per catch average among starting wide receivers is 12.9 yards per catch.
Landry is averaging 5.2 yards less per catch than the average NFL wide receiver. And he’s averaging exactly 5 yards less per catch than he did last season when he caught 94 passes for 1,136 yards.
That’s not good news because if Landry isn’t producing at a certain level, the Dolphins offense is not going to be at an acceptable level either.
But here’s the more curious news: The Dolphins don’t seem to have a great explanation for the issue.
“I don’t know,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said when asked why Landry’s average is way down this season. “I don’t have something that just hits me specifically. Sometimes it’s just the way it falls and all of a sudden ... I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for you on that.”
Landry also doesn’t have a reason for the decline.
“I don’t know,” he explains. “All I can do is the best I can when I get the opportunity and the type of opportunity; so for me, its just getting the ball in my hands regardless of the defense, the play call, whatever, and trying to make something happen from there.
“That’s all I can do, that’s all I can control.”
Interesting. And troubling.
Here’s my theory: Landry is a victim of many factors not working for the Dolphins as they should and having repercussions on him.
The team hasn’t gotten great pass protection this season, so it has been throwing quicker, shorter passes. Jay Cutler, older than Ryan Tannehill and already the victim of two broken ribs, needs more protection and one way to do that is have him get rid of the football quicker.
So Landry, who normally is working out of the slot, gets quick throws that travel maybe a few yards. He also catches a lot of bubble screens that often get him the football behind the line of scrimmage. To the Dolphins those screens are like running plays.
For Landry, they’re yards per catch death.
In short, the Dolphins are settling on getting Landry the football for modest yardage rather than try to get him downfield for a pass that has much less chance of being completed. And they’re doing that often because they don’t want Cutler getting hit.
“It’s nothing that he’s doing wrong,” coach Adam Gase said. “We’re going to take what the defense gives us and complete balls and try to move the sticks and stay in third-and-manageable. That’s really what it’s all about. Earlier in the season, the biggest problem we had was we were third-and-10, probably because we were trying to push the ball down the field too much.”
Gase also said teams are trying to take Landry away because they know the Dolphins want to throw him the ball but I dismiss that because teams have been aware the Dolphins want to throw to Landry since about November 2014. The coverages have not changed.
“Not really,” Landry said. “I’m getting more of the same stuff I’ve been seeing for pretty much my whole career.”
And so that presents a challenge. Either the Dolphins find a way to protect the quarterback better or Landry is going to be producing yardage like a running back coming out of the backfield.
You must recall that last season Landry had a 71-yard catch. And a touchdown of 66 yards. And another TD for 42 yards. And 39 yards. He was allowed to be an all-around threat.
This season Landry has one catch of 20 yards or more. That ties Landry with tight end Anthony Fasano and reserve receiver Leonte Carroo. And it means 166 NFL pass catchers have more receptions of 20-yards or more than Landry.
The Dolphins may see this as necessary to simply function on offense. I see it as a misuse of elite talent.
I see it as a dysfunction on offense -- and not from Jarvis Landry.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero