LSU WR Jarvis Landry: The Gap Between Mundane and Extraordinary

Landry makes some awe-inspiring plays, but it's the mundane that he must execute to become a consistent NFL player.

Landry makes some awe-inspiring plays, but it’s the mundane that he must execute to become a consistent NFL player.

Tall, fast, and skilled with the ball in his hands, Jarvis Landry has the physical skills that excites fans and college beat writers about his NFL potential. The LSU receiver is capable of breaking a big play at any moment. Add a quarterback with Zach Mettenberger’s NFL arm strength and the needle on the hype meter kicks into the red.

There’s talk that Landry may leave LSU a year early for the NFL draft. It’s a smart, short-term business decision if LSU lacks passing talent behind Mettenberger to showcase Landry’s talent as a senior. However, Landry might do his NFL career a greater service if LSU has the quarterback talent for him to wait a year and refine his skills in Cam Cameron’s offensive system. Quarterback Anthony Jennings might qualify as that type of talent, but Landry might be thinking that a change of quarterbacks as a senior is a risk to his draft status that he doesn’t want to consider if he already earns a strong enough grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board as a junior.

Landry has a number of fine plays that illustrate his positives. Today’s post is a more critical statement about details and effort. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, Landry doesn’t have any greater issue with these attributes than the average NFL prospect. However, I found two plays against Alabama that could have changed the complexion of this pivotal SEC match-up if Landry showed a different mindset. 

Make Every Play Count Because You Don’t Know What Will Happen Next

The cliché “Live every day like it’s your last” could easily be “Make every play like it’s your last” because in this game it could be. I’m not just talking about injury. Whether you throw, catch, carry, snap, kick, or tip it, the shape of the football bedevils everyone.

Here’s a 1st-and-goal run with 9:02 in the first quarter where Landry slants inside to block the Alabama safety. It looks like a decent effort from Landry, but upon further review Landry’s block is the difference between average and good. It’s a play that also has a consequence that might have been avoided.

Watch the play on first blush and Landry could earn the characterization as “physical” for throwing his shoulder at the safety. However, it’s not a smart decision. Instead of using his hands to deliver a punch, Landry aims his shoulder into the defender. Although the receiver succeeds with landing the hit on the defender it lacks control, leverage, and technique to sustain contact.

When Landry meets the defender with his shoulder, he’s hitting a defender with equally low pad level and a downhill angle towards the ball carrier. Landry’s hit from an indirect angle bounces off the defender, who isn’t moved off his spot. The defender then makes the tackle on the backing passing through the crease.

If Landry delivers a punch and locks on his hands, he had a better chance to drive the defender away from the crease and the runner has more unimpeded room to run. There’s room for the runner to dip inside his guard’s second level block at the three to earn the score. If not inside the guard, a better block of the safety gives the runner room to make No.13 miss or run through the defender’s hit inside the five.

Landry’s choice of play is the difference between a five-yard gain and a potential touchdown.

Big deal, right? He’s just a receiver. The best teams emphasize these details and expect the highest levels of execution. Mediocre and bad teams often have personnel with the same eye-popping level of talent and skill, but the team is filled with players who don’t perform with consistency of detail and preparation.

This play and these thoughts about execution underscore the belief that we often create our own luck. Landry’s block helps his runner gain five yards, but prevented his runner a chance at reaching the end zone. On the next play, Alabama strips the runner inside the three and recovers the fumble.

Landry doesn’t deserve blame for the runner’s fumble, but his lack of detail – in this case using the optimal technique on the play before – contributes to the next play even happening.  It’s why coaches and players often respond to questions about a pivotal play that dashes any final hopes for a victory that it wasn’t one play that lost the game.

Sell the Mundane to Create the Extraordinary – A Lesson For Route Runners

Speaking of pivotal plays at the end of the game, Landry is the target of one on 4th and 13 with 9:17 in the fourth quarter from a 1×3 10 personnel shotgun set. The middle receiver on the trips side of this play, Landry runs a wheel route, which is essentially and out-and-up to the sideline, tricking the defender into taking a hard angle downhill towards the flat and then turning the play up the boundary on a vertical break.

Once again, on first blush it appears quarterback Zach Mettenberger overthrew Landry in the end zone. At the same time, the CB does a great job of edging Landry towards the sideline and making it difficult for the WR to earn separation down field on the break down hill. However, watch the replay that follows this real-time action below. 

Upon review, Landry creates many of his own problems. In fact, the throw is much more accurate than it appears. The issue is Landry’s initial move.  Landry’s first break to the flat is so unconvincing that the defender is anticipating the wheel route from start to finish.

If Landry snapped his turn to the flat after his initial release from the line of scrimmage, turned his head and pads towards the quarterback, dipped his route towards the line of scrimmage to sell the flat route, the Alabama defensive back has no choice but to break towards the receiver.

Landry does none of these things and it allows the corner to maintain good depth while working towards the boundary. When Landry breaks to the sideline, the defender squeezes the receiver tight to the boundary and gives the wide receiver no wiggle room to adjust unless he gives up outside position, dips inside the corner back, and loses pace on a timing throw heading towards the end zone. 

Landry is a good prospect, but these two plays – one in the first half and one in the fourth quarter – embody what happens when you don’t execute at the highest level of detail possible.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge and available for download within a week after the NFL Draft. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

Categories: 2014 NFL Draft, Evaluations, Players, Wide ReceiverTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Thanks for providing some detail on the little things that could make an average play great. We will have to see if Landry wants to become a complete player or if he is content where he is.

  2. Why are people so quick to judge a kid who is progressing daily. Mind you yes those things could have been done better but by far it was not the detemining factor in the game. Play calling played a major factor.

    • Thanks for writing. I suggest re-reading the post and paying attention to the points made about these two plays being a) very small criticisms of a fine prospect b) representative of something all players – college and pro – have to be mindful.

      There’s a difference between judging and critiquing. If I were to take these two plays and say the prospect can or can’t play, I’m judging him, which I didn’t do.

      What I did was critique technique and pointed out that these are techniques and focus points that many players have to remained focused on doing even as they transition to the NFL. No judgment about him as an overall player in that.

      If anything, I think you’re quick to judge. I’m not sure why. Maybe you’re an LSU fan. Maybe you’re related to Jarvis. Maybe someone sent you a link, you read it and saw it wasn’t glowing and reacted as if his name is getting dragged through the mud.

      I wish Jarvis Landry nothing but the best with his pursuits. I wouldn’t worry about what I have to say. I’m not an NFL team and they have their own scouting reports.

      • Not quick to judge, it’s just frustrating when someone wants to CRITIQUE a minor flaw that can be improved with film study as well as technique. Not sure if you follow Lsu Football or not but Landry is one of the most consistent receivers in collge football and is a complete player in my opinion. I watch day in and day out so many guys in college and in the NFL don’t block at all but a kid gets criticised for effort. EFFORT- a determined attempt… Effort is something that is in someone, it can’t be taught. I do want to thank you for pointing out those factors though. Friendly argument lol no hard feelings. You do what you do for a reason.

      • Gerard,

        No worries. Again, It’s why I was careful to qualify at the beginning of the post that this level of effort I’m critiquing is something that could be critiqued with GOOD NFL players and they more than any player have learned how much detail and effort has to be put into the game to be a good player.

        I don’t think anyone is going to significantly downgrade Landry’s draft status over a minor criticism that was levied to make an overall point about football in general: the extra effort/detail carried out can make a big difference on a play and ultimately a possession or a game even if it doesn’t appear as such at first.

        I’m sure you understand in your line of work and in your playing career that even when you transitioned from high school to college as a WR that the required level of effort and detail needed to succeed was higher at each spot.

        Perhaps the better criticism is detail. We could probably spend some time arguing about effort. Can it be taught? Perhaps at a younger age. Or, maybe it’s not taught but one can inspire effort from another.

        One thing that can be taught is detail. And once a person with the motivation understands the importance of the detail, the effort follows.

        So perhaps we can agree that as anyone in any endeavor strives to improve their performance – be it football, writing, building, science, analysis – that the details become more important.

        I can understand how reading a criticism about effort when the true nature of the criticism is about detail would be frustrating. I agree with you there – and yes, I’m well aware of Jarvis Landry’s performances and reputation.

        At the same time, I think the argument you just made about effort came across to me as “so many other folks don’t even do the minimum so why should this guy be criticized for doing more than the minimum?”

        If I were a fan, friend, family member, or representative of Landry’s interests I would probably have a heightened sensitivity to anyone mentioning effort. However, the context the post is that the best teams and players execute the smallest details at a consistent level.

        There’s no doubt Landry is a fine talent. However, when you do what I do – which is spend about 60-80 hours a week watching college football games for the past nine years and grade players based on a standard of play that works well in the NFL – it’s the little things that you notice and often make a good teaching point to readers.

        Could I have been more careful with the use of the word “effort”? I have to think about that one more. It’s a fair issue to raise with the criticism of the post.

        Thanks again for responding and I appreciate the back and forth, it helps me, too.


  3. I totally agree with gerard. How can you put two completely meaningless plays in here, they didnt severely impact the game at all. Plus his positives clearly outweigh the negatives of two plays.TWO! As if 77 catches and 1100+ yds isnt good enough to you, well whatever. And anyways if u dont think hes a good blocker, look at numerous youtube videos of him laying guys out. In my opinion out of all the wide recievers in this class he”ll have the best career

    • Easily. If you read the article again, you’ll see it’s about the ways small plays can make a difference in a game. The article is not so much about Landry’s skill as it is about the small issues on plays that folks find meaningless when watching a game, but coaches find meaningful as a collection of efforts. However, you’re reading the post as a Jarvis Landry fan who is seeking this as a scouting report on a good player that has negative things to say about small instances. This is not a scouting report. It’s an analysis of two small plays of a good player to drive him a larger overall point. If you read the post another time, you will hopefully catch what I’m re-explaining here rather than react to it as a partisan fan of a player who feels the need to defend the player and miss the overall theme of the piece. Thanks.

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