Home » Cleveland Browns » Why the Browns’ Jarvis Landry is still one of the best slot receivers in the NFL — Film Review

Why the Browns’ Jarvis Landry is still one of the best slot receivers in the NFL — Film Review

CLEVELAND, Ohio — My colleague Scott Patsko kicked off our Jarvis Landry “Bark Week” with a data-driven “less is more” piece. Patsko provided numbers detailing Browns coach Kevin Stefanski’s effective deployment of Landry.

Like the offense he’s in, Landry remains consistent, reliable and successful. Aside from an eight-catch, 143-yard outburst versus Jacksonville in Week 12, Landry didn’t eclipse 100 yards in a game. His other top two outings came against the Colts (88 yards) and Titans (62 yards). He had two 61-yard games.

Those numbers aren’t All-Pro-caliber. In fact, Landry is a five-time Pro Bowler despite never making an All-Pro team.

In 2020, Landry finished 36th in receiving yards (840). He also finished 33rd in fantasy points among receivers. In both categories, Cole Beasley (Bills), Robby Anderson (Panthers), Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions), Diontae Johnson (Steelers) and Tyler Boyd (Bengals) all finished higher.

But like his running mate Odell Beckham Jr., Landry makes top-20 money. His $15.1 million 2021 salary is 16th highest, more than Davante Adams or Stefon Diggs.

Landry won’t put up top-20 numbers playing in Stefanski’s offense. The Browns are better because Stefanski uses Landry as a complement. He’s an accessory Cleveland should enjoy for one or two more seasons.

Because when a key moment calls for him, Jarvis Landry routinely proved he’s still one of the best slot receivers in football. Let’s highlight the three reasons why that’s a fact.

His hands remain excellent

Brillant pass catchers make unforgettable plays. When I think back on Landry’s season, one stands out as his No. 1.

No. 80′s back-of-the-end-zone toe-tapper versus the Giants on Sunday Night Football was one of the better catches I’d ever seen live.

With under a minute until half, the Browns used a two-by-two, 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) formation. Baker Mayfield motioned Donovan Peoples-Jones across the formation and snapped it. As the Browns’ interior protection failed, Mayfield bailed right. Landry continued crossing the field after shaking New York corner Isaac Yiadom

Mayfield impressed me as much as Landry did on this play. Recalling this play, I remember being surprised

“How’d they complete that?” I thought.

Well, Mayfield put a ball on the money and Landry plucked a missile out of the air. His body control and ball-protection skills shined as he fell to the ground completing the catch.

This next play comes from 2019. It came during an underwhelming offensive performance in Pittsburgh. The difference between this incredible catch and the one above epitomizes the coaching changes Cleveland made.

Below, Landry and Beckham nearly collide on a broken play. That tells me the Browns weren’t disciplined in their scramble rules and thus unorganized. Landry still makes a body-stretching grab, but it was far more difficult and wasn’t nearly as rewarding.

Consistently opens at second-level

Landry sometimes fights at the line too much. He’ll get caught up in hand fighting, lose and allow a defensive back into his chest. Physical receivers lose some reps versus press-man coverage because they thrive on contact to win. Compare that to how the Packers’ Davante Adams releases. Cornerbacks don’t touch him.

After Landry wins at the line of scrimmage, he often toasts his defender at the second level. Whether the corner is playing a trail technique or off in zone, Landry’s burst at the top of his routes remains superb.

His touchdown versus Tennessee exemplifies that. Late in the first quarter on a second-and-goal, the Browns sent Landry in short motion. This was an example of Stefanski understanding strengths. He knows Landry can win at the second level versus any corner. Motion helps Landry avoid getting bumped at the line.

At the snap, Landry took one hard cut toward the deep pylon, like he’s running a fade. On his third vertical step, Landry broke inside, leaving his defender stumbling. Once Mayfield scanned back left for him, he made another sideline grab and impressive score.

That’s a clinic on second-level route running. Landry still changes direction and sets moves up in world-class fashion.

However, no matter how open he gets downfield, sometimes it doesn’t matter. This became an issue versus heavy man coverage teams or two-high safety situations.

Against the Raiders in Week 8, the Browns trailed late and needed to score.

Landry started as the No. 3 receiver to Mayfield’s right. He ran a stick route, which is meant to open up behind an underneath defender and in front of a deep safety. But Las Vegas played perfect coverage and smashed Landry.

Mayfield shouldn’t have thrown this ball. He could’ve seriously injured Landry. But once again, he opened at the second level and showed unique toughness at the catch point. No one catches them all. Fewer beat triple coverage.

Still pops explosive plays

Landry doesn’t threaten defenses deep. Sometimes that works to his advantage. Versus the Steelers, he manipulated tight coverage into a busted play. Before we go over that play, keep in mind Landry attempted four passes in his first season with Stefanski. He went 4-for-4 for 74 yards and a touchdown. All four went for first downs, earning him a perfect quarterback rating and QBR.

His expertise blossoms in the slot, but overall he’s a playmaking football player, one capable of throwing, catching running or blocking his way to success.

His most explosive play last season came in the Browns’ biggest game. Facing a third-and-4 from near midfield, Landry scored on a 44-yard slant. Once again, motion helped Landry pre snap. He widened his defender early, only to cross his face and find a quick window. Just before Landry cleared safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mayfield fired inside and Landry took off like OBJ.

Notice that two of the above plays came when Landry wasn’t in the slot. Both were touchdowns. His refined receiving chops make him more than just a slot guy.

But because that is where he primarily plays, he’s one of the best.

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