The overlooked receiver in the 2014 draft set an NFL record with 194 catches over his first two seasons with the Dolphins. Now he’s poised to break out like never before in Adam Gase’s new offense
The group of wideouts from the 2014 draft class has stood out for its ascending stars: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr., who were taken with the fourth, seventh and 12th overall picks and have lived up to the hype. They're so talented that another receiver taken that year, Jarvis Landry, has sometimes been lost in the mix. Perhaps it’s because his Dolphins have underachieved over the past two seasons, or perhaps he’s too often viewed as Beckham’s sidekick (the former LSU teammates are close friends and have similar haircuts). But the second-rounder has become Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target: Landry’s 194 catches set the NFL record for the most by any player through his first two seasons. The MMQB recently caught up with the 23-year-old to talk about his expectations going into the 2016 season, his impressions of the Dolphins' new coach, and the violence rocking his home state of Louisiana.
KAPLAN: Tell me about the first time you met your new coach, Adam Gase?
LANDRY: Everyone keeps talking about how he’s such a young guy. Well, when I came to the facility I reached out for a formal handshake and he’s like, ‘Man, get that out of here! Give me a hug! Show me some love!’ His youth definitely came out then. He has embraced me, and from there our relationship has continued to grow. We talk every day. I’m excited to play for him.
KAPLAN: He’s an offensive-minded coach. Have you studied any tape of his Broncos or Bears offenses yet?
LANDRY: I’ve actually watched a lot, mostly Denver tape. I’m a big-time fan of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Plus, Peyton [Manning] is a Louisiana guy as well so a lot of guys on that team I look up to. Peyton broke a lot of NFL records in that offense. I’m excited about playing in it.
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KAPLAN: What aspects of that scheme might be different for you?
LANDRY: I’m excited for the opportunity to get moved around, to be with an offensive-minded coach that understands the concept of moving me around [and how that] allows me to do what I do best—which is play freely. That’s how most of our conversations go.
KAPLAN: Does that mean we we’ll be seeing you in the slot less?
LANDRY: Absolutely. I don’t want to have limits. Who wants limits? Who wants to have somebody implement limits? For me, it’s about being able to show my range and versatility: inside, outside. Hey, running back, quarterback, offensive line, whatever you need me to do coach.
LANDRY: We never know. I did it last year and I’m up for it again. I mean, I’m one-for-one. That’s not bad, right?
KAPLAN: Speaking of quarterbacks, what have you noticed about Ryan Tannehill this offseason?
LANDRY: I’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with him, throwing on our own, going to lunch, going golfing. With a new coach, it’s a fun time for him. He’s excited. I’ve definitely seen some confidence growing in him from last year where we left off. This year, he has a lot to build on.
KAPLAN: The Dolphins went through a lot of changes last year. How difficult was the season?
LANDRY: As a player, you’re here to perform under any circumstance. I’ve grown to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s like anything in life, you just gotta keep doing what you do and find a way. I think me personally, and numerous guys on this team, we found a way to still finish the season despite everything happening around us in the building. I’m more excited about having Coach Gase and this coaching staff and putting it all together.
KAPLAN: On a more serious note, you grew up about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans. When you heard about the death of Will Smith, what were your thoughts?
LANDRY: There’s no question violence is a problem down there. But it’s not new. It always has been that way. We always knew, going to New Orleans, you always want to be conscious. With a senseless killing like that, it shows things really have gotten out of hand. Once upon a time, we were the murder capital of the world, and now it’s still embarrassing. At the same time, like [LSU teammate] Tyrann [Mathieu] said, we neglect education. We neglect showing kids the right way. They grow up being influenced by a lot of negative things. When that is the case, you get senseless killings, you get robberies, you get domestic violence. I don’t want to say kids aren’t raised the right way, but they aren’t influenced by the right things.
KAPLAN: What can be done to change that?
LANDRY: Tyrann’s comments are important and I think more players should speak out about it. It’s something that needs to be addressed. Not even speaking about Will Smith’s death, but the countless deaths before him, and deaths that are going to come after him. It’s something that as a community, and as a Louisiana native, we need to take note of. We need to find a way to raise awareness about this senseless stuff. Being that Tyrann did it first, and to speak on a national stage and talk the way he talked, oh man, it’s inspiring. I hope more people can feel more comfortable speaking out about it.
KAPLAN: Your hometown, Convent, was hit pretty bad by a tornado this year. In February you went back. What was that trip like?
LANDRY: I donated money and worked with my agency, the Dolphins, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Red Cross to help. My mom and a couple of my family members cooked and brought it to relief workers and families affected by the tornado. But I went back as much for that as I did for moral support. I was trying to uplift the spirits. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play in the NFL and that puts me in a position to inspire others, to be there for others, to be that leaning shoulder to cry on.
KAPLAN: As the draft approaches, I’d love to reflect on your experience three years ago. You’re a guy who didn’t have a great combine and look where you are now. Do you think there is too much stock put into the combine?
LANDRY: Absolutely. I wouldn’t say the combine is overrated. It is a perfect time for teams to be able to evaluate a player’s personality. But a lot of times, teams base where they draft a guy, or where a guy doesn’t get drafted, because of the stopwatch. Look at guys like Jerry Rice, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald—all these guys didn’t particularly have the best combine but look at what they’ve accomplished in this league.KAPLAN: If there was a re-draft, knowing what we know now, where would you get picked?
LANDRY: Who knows, who knows (laughing). But I’m proud to be a Miami Dolphin and I’m happy that it turned out the way it did. I want to continue that legacy here, and be a Miami Dolphin forever.
KAPLAN: You returned kickoffs your rookie year, but last year mostly returned punts. Even still, what are your thoughts on the new touchback rule? Some argue it will reduce the number of kick returns and make the game safer—others think it will have the opposite effect.
LANDRY: Look, it’s football. It’s not a safe game, you know? That goes without saying. The league is doing everything possible to ensure it is becoming a safer game. Who knows, some teams might have strategies not to kick it into the end zone. It depends on the special teams coaches. I like returning kicks. If it helps the team, I’m willing to do anything. Obviously my role last year picked up as much as it did on offense, so I didn’t return kicks as much, though I did a lot of punt returning. If the team needs me, I’m going to do it.
KAPLAN: When are we going to see someone unseat the Patriots in the AFC East?
LANDRY: It’s coming. It’s coming. They’re definitely one of the better teams in our conference, but at the same time, we’re contending. The Bills are contending. The Jets are contending. We seem to pull one out every year—late. But we need to figure out a way to win those games on the road, in New England. When we begin to become the team that can beat them on the road, that’s when that era will start to transform.
KAPLAN: The NFL wants to expand its reach and play in China. As a player who has done an overseas trip to London, what’s your perspective on that?
LANDRY: I can’t imagine that being easy. From Miami, it’s about nine hours to London. Then it’s another 11 hours to get to China? That’s the problem. That’s a drain. For a guy like me, I’ve never seen China before, so I’d be interested in experiencing the country. Yet at the same time, that’s a long way to go to play a football game, especially if you lose.
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