It’s difficult to project what rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry‘s role will be in the Miami Dolphins‘ offense this coming season, especially in advance of training camp.
Landry, a second-round pick out of LSU, should bolster a receiver corps that underwhelmed in 2013 at some point, but Miami’s returning group of pass catchers are capable enough to suggest he could have a difficult time emerging as an immediate contributor.
Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, two productive, but arguably overpaid starters, are solidified as the top two options on the depth chart. Beyond 2013, that could change.
Wallace is one of the fastest players in the sport, but isn’t the natural route runner or hands catcher to likely ever justify his price tag. Beginning next offseason, the Dolphins could save cap space by cutting Wallace. As for Hartline, who is arguably quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite target, the sixth-year pro produces enough to stick in Miami, but his limitations as a No. 1 could make him expendable in the future.
Landry, despite some limitations of his own — specifically, less-than-ideal size and straight-line speed — has some potential as a starting boundary receiver in the NFL. The necessary grittiness to make difficult, contested catches over the middle and in traffic, the sure hands to earn the trust of Tannehill in key spots and the savvy route-running prowess to keep cornerbacks guessing, all highlight why Landry can develop into a formidable boundary target; if not immediately, in the near future.
However, Landry doesn’t necessarily have to wait for either Wallace or Hartline to be kicked the curb to produce in Bill Lazor‘s offense. He’s arguably a higher ceiling player when operating out of the slot, where he should be given the opportunity to compete in training camp. The Dolphins’ other options in the slot include Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews, who both had bright moments inside in 2013. But Gibson is returning from a serious knee injury and Matthews is rumored to be in head coach Joe Philbin‘s doghouse for unknown reasons.
Both Gibson and Matthews are capable of earning the role and excelling, but Landry seemingly has the intangibles the Dolphins coveted at receiver and is more than capable of outperforming the incumbents.
The key for Landry in his rookie training camp will be to limit typical rookie lapses that will impede the coaches’ trust. If he’s the hard-working, tough, sure-handed receiver he was at LSU, he’ll find a role in Miami as a rookie. He still needs to prove he can consistently separate from NFL corners, but he projects as a player any coaching staff would love and seek ways to utilize.
Camp and the preseason will be telling for Landry’s development, but he enters his rookie campaign as a potential steal of a late second-round pick who should provide the toughness the Dolphins’ receiver corps was missing.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.