Jarvis Landry has had two consecutive down years with Cleveland Browns
Jarvis Landry was a three-time Pro Bowl receiver for the Dolphins when he was traded for then signed by John Dorsey to a gi-normous contract extension.
Of course, he was overpaid. When your team goes 0-16, they have to pay extra in order to get star players to sign a contract. That’s just a fact, and perhaps Dorsey can be forgiven for overpaying for quality to upgrade the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL.
Landry was not the burner wide receiver that fans love. Instead, he is a member of the NFL’s All-Slow team, at 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Miami coach Adam Gase used Landry exclusively in the slot, where he specialized in making short-range catches in traffic and was sensational. Landry was the world’s greatest number three wide receiver, in effect.
With the Browns, Landry went to two additional Pro Bowls. His best season came in 2019 when he was matched with OBJ, who usually drew the other team’s best corner. That year he had a career-high 1,174 yards for Baker and Freddie Kitchens.
When Kevin Stefanski took over in 2020, the increased use of the two-tight-end formations meant that there would be less opportunity to be used in the slot. Plus, Landry started to have injury problems, and his production slid off. He was still very capable, but his string of Pro Bowls was snapped.
Placating wide receivers was a persistent theme of the Baker era. In 2021, Landry received 87 targets in 533 snaps, or one target every 6.1 snaps. That is far too many. As pointed out previously by this author, the Bengals target Ja’Marr Chase once every 7.3 snaps.
How could anyone possibly justify having more targets per snap for Landry than for Ja’Marr Chase? And not by just a small margin! Can denizens of the Dawg Pound admit that Chase was just a bit more productive than Landry? Landry gained 6.6 yards per target, which is poor in today’s NFL. Chase gained 11.4 yards per target.
Another way to put it into perspective is to compare 2021 Landry with 2019 (career-best) Landry. In 2019, Landry was targeted once every 7.1 snaps versus once every 6.1 snaps in 2021. Giving him more targets while his performance was so poor is impossible to justify. Nevertheless, Baker was quoted as saying that he wanted to get Landry more involved in the game.
Saying ego-pacifying things to the press is certainly okay, but we hope it was a lie. Instead, he may have actually meant it, which is all wrong. The receivers are always crying for more targets, but the quarterback has to choose the guy who is making catches and making yards. Landry was just not making yards last season. The hot receiver was Donovan Peoples-Jones, by a large margin.
DPJ was at least in the same area code as Chase, with 10.6 yards per target last season. However, Baker only targeted him once every 12.1 snaps, about half as often as Juice. Does that make any sense to anyone?
Landry was a number three wide receiver having to play the role of number one and the Browns were force-feeding him the ball more instead of less. The Browns were supposed to be a run-first offense with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D’Ernest Chubb, but instead, they targeted Jarvis Landry at a higher rate (on a per-snap basis) than the Bengals targeted Ja’Marr Chase. Landry did not produce.
Landry probably should not be blamed for crying for the ball all the time. All good receivers want the ball. But the coach and quarterback have to make better decisions about who to throw to, and they need to design plays that gain more than 6.6 yards. If they can’t, no way should that receiver continue to be the top dawg, and maybe the quarterback needs to go also.
Again, as an outsider looking in, it appears that somebody felt the need to pacify the ego of the veteran wide receiver, rather than doing what was necessary to win. In fact, just looking over the stat sheets, the numbers suggest that placating wide receivers’ egos has been an integral part of the Browns offense since 2019.