Eagle Eye: Jarvis Landry And Miami’s Motion Offense
On Friday, May 9, Chip Kelly and the Eagles sat with the No. 42 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and a bevy of options at their fingertips in one of the deepest wide receiver drafts in league history.
The Eagles selected Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt, and 24 games into his career, Matthews has had one of the best starts to a career of any wideout in franchise history. He had his share of struggles over the first half of the season, but the pick still appears to be a good one by just about any measure.
But there’s always the parallel universe game to be played. What if the Eagles had selected, say, Davante Adams, who Green Bay selected 11 picks later? Or maybe Allen Robinson, who went to Jacksonville 19 picks later?
What if the Eagles had selected Jarvis Landry, who the Miami Dolphins took 21 picks after Matthews and enters Sunday’s matchup with the Birds as one of the more dynamic players in the NFL?
Over their respective careers, Matthews and Landry have put up staggeringly similar numbers. Matthews got the better of Landry in their rookie seasons; Matthews caught 67 balls for 872 yards and eight touchdowns, while Landry hauled in 84 passes for 758 yards and five scores.
This year, the two have been nearly identical in production. Landry has caught five more balls for four more yards, and both wideouts have a pair of touchdowns.
“We were high on [Landry during the draft], too,” Kelly said this week. “He’s an outstanding receiver, and he’s done a really nice job. He’s catching the ball extremely well, and he’s a dynamic returner as well; he does a really good job on punt returns for them.”
Landry is at the center of Miami’s explosive offense, which relies on plenty of pre-snap motion and misdirection to throw defenses off of its intentions.
Here’s what the Eagles have seen from his tape, and what they expect from the second-year playmaker on Sunday.
1. He’s not afraid of contact
Bennie Logan was a member of the same 2011 SEC champion LSU team that Landry was a part of, and while the two spent time on opposite sides of the ball, Logan remembers a decent amount about Landry from their time with the Tigers in Louisiana.
“He’s a way better player in the league,” Logan said. “Not that he wasn’t a good player in college, but he’s definitely evolved and grown.
“He’s a real physical guy who catches the ball and looks to get up field, and he doesn’t shy away from contact.”
On this play, we get a taste for the way Miami’s offense likes to move before the snap, and we also get to see Landry’s physicality in single coverage.
With all the pre-snap shifting, Landry is left isolated against one cornerback. The roaming safety, Andre Hal, who is wearing No. 29, freezes for a second because of the running back in the back field, so Ryan Tannehill fires the ball to Landry immediately.
Landry gets up field fast on this play, just like Logan said, and works to the outside by ducking his right shoulder and initiating contact rather than letting the cornerback come to him.
Because Hal was frozen for a second, and because Landry thrives on contact, he picks up nine yards and a first down here.
“He doesn’t shy away from contact,” Nolan Carroll said. “He always wants the ball, he’s a competitive guy, he wants the extra yards.”
2. He’s really, really fast
Another thing that stands out about the 5-11, 210-pound wideout is his speed.
“He’s just fast, man,” Byron Maxwell said. “He runs well.”
Nolan Carroll concurred, saying being “quick” is Landry’s “biggest thing.”
According to Ryan Tannehill, when he gets in the open field, you’re in trouble.
“Once he gets the ball in his hands, that’s where he’s truly special and can make plays,” Tannehill said on a conference call this week.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better example of Landry’s game-breaking speed than this dazzling 50-yard touchdown, a large majority of which comes after he catches the ball.
Landry begins the play by opening up room between him and Hal, gaining a few yards during his route with clean cuts and speed. When Tannehill delivers the ball, Hal is trying to make up ground on the play, which is why Landry can stop his momentum near the sideline and free himself of Hal, who is over-pursuing.
From there, Landry reverses field and simply out-runs Texans defenders, who take bad angles considering the player they’re trying to tackle.
When he ran his 4.77 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he was running on a strained hamstring. At full health, Landry’s one of the fastest wideouts in the league.
3. He’s a threat in the run game
Kelly was asked before Wednesday’s practice about whether Landry is a serious threat when he runs the ball.
A wide receiver? A dangerous rushing threat? Kelly wasn’t concerned.
“Not really,” Kelly said. “I think he may have had a reverse or two, but I don’t think he has double-digit carries or anything like that.”
Kelly was wrong.
Through eight games, Landry has 12 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown. A measly 12 carries is a far cry from having a prominent role in Miami’s offense, but Landry has carried the ball at least once in seven of the Dolphins’ eight games this season.
Ten of his 12 carries have come on end around-style rushes, and two have been off-tackle runs. In the Dolphins’ last outing, against the Bills, Landry carried the ball four times for 18 yards, his most carries in a game this season.
Here’s an example of Landry breaking an end-around run for a big gain and a touchdown.
This is an excellent play design. By sending the running back in motion to the left side, Tannehill bumps the Tennessee defense ever so slightly further left.
Then, with the fake handoff to the remaining running back, who is heading to the right side, he sells the quick throw to the wide receiver who is split wide left.
A runner in motion, followed by a fake hand-off and a quick throw in the other direction, is typically as far as an offense feels the need to go in terms of misdirection, so a handful of Tennessee defenders buy in and over-commit to the fake throw.
Instead, Tannehill hands the ball off to a streaking Landry, who takes the ball around the right end, where a good chunk of yardage lays waiting, and he finishes the play off with the speed and physicality we talked about earlier.
“He’s their main weapon on offense,” Carroll said. “He’s what makes those guys move.
“He’s tough, he’s competitive, and they’re always trying to get him the ball — reverses, screens, whatever it might be, they’re always trying to get it to him.”
With his one-two punch of enthusiastic physicality and breakaway speed, Landry is an impressive weapon at Tannehill’s disposal. Between receptions and rushes, he averages over eight touches per game.
Sunday, the Eagles’ defensive backs — and, when he runs the ball, linebackers — will have their hands full against the dynamic Landry.