Third down is usually do or die for an NFL offense. A failure to convert stops a drive aside from the rare instances where the coach decides to go for it on fourth down. With so much at stake, these plays lead offenses to feature their go to guy.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry was the go to guy on third down for the Dolphins in their opener. It is no surprise the Dolphins would utilize such a talented wide receiver in key spots.
What is notable is the way they used Landry on third down. Their goal seemed to be to get the ball into his hands and let him make a play. Consider this. The Dolphins had 13 third down plays against the Chargers last week. I counted six times they targeted Landry on a route short of the first down. They depended on his ability to run after the catch and get to the marker with the ball in his hands.
There were also instances where they tried to create favorable circumstances by the way they designed their plays.
Here the Dolphins brought Landry in motion. You can see that there were already two Dolphins receivers in this area and two Chargers defenders underneath on that side of the field.
The Dolphins seemed like they had this blocked really well. Landry was going to have a clear path perhaps to score.
This play was only stopped because Casey Hayward identified the play, got around the block attempt, and tackled Landry to minimize the gain to 1 yard.
On this third down play, the Dolphins didn’t just bring Landry in motion. They tried to have him hide behind his big offensive line. He was almost lined up like a tight end. Maybe the defense would lose track of him. Maybe there would be bad communication, and the Dolphins would get a mismatch.
As it turned out, Landry got a free release off the line and a head of steam. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jay Cutler’s pass was off the mark so Landry had to adjust to the ball unable to grab it at full speed and scurry off to the marker. He was tackled for a loss of 2.
On the next third down play we will show you, Miami was more successful at getting Landry involved.
Here Devante Parker was running deep holding those defenders in place (orange). Jay Ajayi came out of the backfield and drew away the defender in the zone in the middle of the field (red). Landry sold a route to the sideline, but cut back to the middle of the field, which was open because of the way Parker’s and Ajayi’s routes took defenders away. Landry had plenty of daylight to scamper for the first down.
This might not be your typical third down situation where the primary job is to cover and prevent a completion to the other team’s go to guy. The Dolphins are throwing Landry high percentage passes in the hopes he can make a play. They have a skilled playcaller in Adam Gase, one who clearly can find ways to get Landry the ball in space.
What can the Jets defense do?
- Make sure you know where Landry is at all times on third down.
- Fight through blocks better. We discussed instances yesterday where some Jets perimeter defenders struggled to get off blocks only to be bailed out by the safeties.
- Hope those safeties come to play. There is a reason the Jets invested their premium picks in those guys. They are looking for big open field tackles.