Back in mid-October, Dolphins slot receiver Jarvis Landry tweeted that he’s ‘just trying to be legendary.’ The outpour of support at the time was overwhelming and inspiring. Since then, the one they call ‘Juice’ has been rock-solid.
Over the last six weeks, he’s averaging 6.3 catches and 53 yards per game with four touchdown catches. And for the first time in his football career, an opposing defensive coordinator complimented him on his performance after a game.
“Walking off the field after the Baltimore (Ravens) game, I ran into their defensive coordinator (Dean Pees) and he just said, ‘You’re a great player,’” Landry admitted this week at practice. “His job was to contain me a little bit and much credit goes to them. When you think about a Ravens defense, you always know they’ve had great defenses and great defensive coordinators, [I] just took it as a compliment.”
The production from the slot has been a welcomed sight for Head Coach Joe Philbin, who admits he hasn’t necessarily called Landry’s number for every single target the rookie has gotten.
“For the vast majority of us, we are a progression based passing team, for the most part,” the third-year coach began. “That doesn’t necessarily mean he is number one in every single progression. That doesn’t necessarily mean that is by design − that we want to get him the ball X-amount of times. Certainly, he has found a way to get open. Our quarterback has found a way to get him the ball and he’s produced.”
It appears as if No. 17 and No. 14 have developed a trusting relationship on the field. Ryan Tannehill has consistently targeted the 5-foot-11, 200-pound receiver, especially recently. Over the past three games, Landry has racked up 27 targets including back-to-back games with 11 targets.
“Jarvis is a fun guy to play with,” Miami’s QB stated. “I’ve said it a lot of times. He’s a playmaker and I think that’s his biggest attribute that he can go get the ball and do something with it after he has it.”
The former LSU wideout has been a deep threat as well. Against New York two weeks ago, Landry set a season-high with a 25-yard reception. He sandwiched that with a pair of 20-yard gains against Denver and most recently, Baltimore.
“I don’t know, I think it’s just been me taking advantage of every opportunity,” Landry stated. “It’s never been so much of the ball just coming to me, we try to spread the ball around as much as we can. Just trying to take advantage of every opportunity, meaning just trying to catch every ball, no matter if it’s a good pass, bad pass, good coverage, bad coverage. That’s what has allowed me to rack a couple of catches up.”
Last week against a veteran secondary like the one the Ravens employ, Landry caught all six passes from Tannehill. The LSU product thanks his early-season work and practice reps, stating that’s what has aided his progression.
“The thing is, there is always that transitional phase, when the experience factor buys into it, when you go up against other guys,” he continued. “Fortunately for me, I had a lot of vets like Cortland (Finnegan) and (Brent) Grimes to go up against in practice every day, that got that out by the time the season started after preseason was over. I would say after preseason, it was basically over.”
After not catching a single pass against the Patriots in the season-opener, Landry hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down. That’s the same type of mindset he brings with him to practice and to the game.
“I think he has the nickname ‘Juice’ around here if I’m not mistaken,” Philbin said. “The guy brings a lot of energy and passion, number one. He’s a very, very competitive individual. We use the term or I use the term, ‘The guy is a football player.’ He loves to go out there and compete. He has a lot of confidence in himself. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can make things happen. He’s not afraid to go across the middle. He’s not afraid to go up against anybody. I think that competitive nature in him is really a positive for the whole ball club.”
His competitiveness may bring about a big game this week in a rematch with the Patriots. After all, he doesn’t want to end his first professional season without a reception against the Division-frontrunners.
This story was written by Steven Wilson. Follow him on Twitter: @stevenjwilson11