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.