As the Browns made the surprise move to acquire Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, many who follow the game closely had some serious questions. How can you they justify paying this receiver $15 million dollars per season when he runs an average route depth of just eight yards? Paying a limited slot receiver Top 5 wide receiver money was something so many could not understand, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Landry has his share of limitations, but I will continue to say that how the Dolphins used Landry was the biggest issue for his perceived value. The Browns needed not just the player Jarvis Landry, but the person as well.
It’s no secret the Browns have been limited in the wide receiver production department since the breakout season from Josh Gordon in 2013. We all know the story of Gordon since as he has never lived up to his lofty expectations and now resides in Foxboro hoping to rectify his career arc. There was the one-off Terrelle Pryor season in 2016, but as we have seen, the consistency faded as the Browns declined to bring the wide receiver back and he has bounced to multiple teams since and has been unable to come anywhere near that production. Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin had some flash moments, but they never quite put it together here as so many hoped, and neither was the No. 1 option.
Landry, however, brings something different. We have seen his on-field endeavors this year jump up already through three games, and when you consider what the Browns got from their receivers in 2017, all you can do is smile. The Browns leading receivers in 2017 went for 27 catches the entire season. Landry has 20 catches through three games. The receiver is being used in a much different fashion as well. Consider the look of the targets here – the routes he is being asked to run.
A quick look at Jarvis Landry's routes in his first two games with Cleveland against a few of his late season efforts last year for the Dolphins. A clear difference in what he is being asked and the depth.
*Reminder, where it turns green is YAC yards. pic.twitter.com/P6G8KAYN6u
— BrownsFilmBreakdown (@BrownsFilmBDN) September 19, 2018
If you give that tweet a look with NFL NextGen stats draws up the route concepts, you can clearly see a difference in Landry target depth from 2017 Miami to 2018 Cleveland. It is one of the biggest reasons I had for optimism. I thought Miami was severely limiting the player he could be. Here’s a look at targeted air yards, yards per catch, yards after catch, and % of total yards gained after catch for Landry over the last three seasons:
2016 (Miami): 6.5 TAY, 12.1 YPC, 6.3 YAC, 52.1 YAC%
2017 (Miami): 6 TAY, 8.8 YPC, 4.5 YAC, 51.1 YAC%
2018 (Cleveland): 11 TAY, 13.9 YPC, 2.5 YAC, 18% YAC%
The biggest difference in the massive increase in targeted air yards, and his reduction in yards after catch. When your catch is made further downfield, you typically gain less yards and with Landry’s lack of top end speed, this is about what I expected. Landry won’t run away from many people, but what he lacks in straight line speed he makes up for in quick feet, shifty hips, and a catch radius and hand strength that might be the league’s next best to his former college teammate O’Dell Beckham Jr.
Consider his catch up the seam against the Jets this past Thursday:
The amount of strength it takes in the hands to make that catch is absurd. The absurd at wide receiver is what the Browns needed. The hope with Josh Gordon was always there. The hope that he could replicate the super-human season he flashed in 2013. The problem is, it became clear the unlikelihood for it to happen again. Gordon has never found a way to stay on the straight and narrow and was always more problem than solution.
Landry doesn’t have near the talent that Gordon carries, but the best thing Landry has, and where he will always be better than Gordon is in his ability to be available. The guy is there week-in and week-out and he sets a clear example for those around him. That right there is what the Browns need more than anything else – leaders. We always talk about thermostat leaders – those who raise the temperature in the room all on their own and Landry is that type. The aura around the franchise changed the day the Browns decided to make that trade. Landry is equally as important to the Browns on the field as he is off the field. But, don’t be fooled, that on the field player can really play.
We all hope that Landry ends up with the 1,475 yards he is on pace for and the Browns need every bit of it.