DAVIE, Fla. -- Assistant head coach and longtime special-teams coach Darren Rizzi has seen hundreds of players come and go during his eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
According to Rizzi, he hasn’t coached anyone quite like two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor, and no matter where I’ve coached -- college and the NFL, this is my 25th season -- I don’t know if I can say I’ve had a more competitive guy than Jarvis on game days,” Rizzi said. “He brings a lot of energy to the team, to the sideline. He’s really into the game. That’s really contagious.”
Where does Landry get his competitiveness?
“Just growing up, I was always just taught to win,” Landry said. “Always compete to win. Never settle for second or less. I think it’s just always been will. I’ve always believed and approached it with pure confidence and with the understanding and knowing that I won’t quit until they do or he does. That’s got me through everything.”
Landry, who is making $893,850 this season, is one of the NFL’s biggest bargains. With 80 catches so far, he is well on his way to leading the Dolphins in receptions for the fourth consecutive season. Landry has also set an NFL record for the most receptions (368) in the first four seasons of a career and still has four games to go.
All of those skills will be on display on Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) when Landry leads Miami (5-7) against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (10-2).
If the Dolphins have learned anything during this roller-coaster season, it's that Landry is part of the long-term solution. He is arguably the team’s most consistent player and on pace to surpass 100 receptions for the second time in his career.
Landry will become an unrestricted free agent in March, and the Dolphins would be foolish to let him walk. Landry certainly won’t come cheaply. Receivers with his level of production could make anywhere between $12 million and $17 million per season.
But the Dolphins must find a way to keep one of their pillars or risk taking a further step back. In addition to his team-leading 80 receptions, Landry has 699 receiving yards and six touchdowns despite a revolving door of quarterbacks that began with Ryan Tannehill in training camp and continued with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore during the season.
Entering a contract year, Landry worked hard on shaking the label of slot receiver and has run more outside routes.
“We had a big emphasis of it this offseason where I know he always wants to do more and wants to be put in different spots,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He’s done a good job of learning all those different positions. We’re just going to keep trying to find ways to get him the ball and get it in his hands quickly so he can make some plays after he catches the ball.”
Monday presents an opportunity for a national audience to see Landry against one of the NFL’s best and smartest teams. Despite facing constant double-teams, he had eight receptions for 70 yards two weeks ago in a 35-17 loss to the Patriots.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was seen on video via NFL Films saying how important it was to double Landry throughout the game. That shows just how much respect the future Hall of Fame coach has for Landry.
The Dolphins expect to see more of the same Monday night since the strategy worked.
“They’re going to double Jarvis. They’re going to take away what you’re doing well and make you try to beat them left-handed,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “That’s what they’ve always done, and they do it in a lot of different ways so you never have a beat going into the game.”
Perhaps the biggest error Landry made this year happened in the offseason.
Landry made a bold prediction in April that the Dolphins would sweep the Patriots and close the gap in the AFC East. New England already foiled that proclamation and has a chance sweep Miami for the second straight season.
Landry realizes it will take a near-perfect game by Miami’s offense on Monday night to split the season series.
“They are a good team. They’re a great team,” Landry said of the Patriots. “You can’t have turnovers and you can’t play behind the chains against these guys. They’ll make you pay for it. Also, we had opportunities there to take that game from them. For us, we’re trying to put another game together, one at a time.”