DAVIE, Fla. (AP) – Amid the many changes in the Miami Dolphins’ receiving corps, one familiar figure looms large: Jarvis Landry.
He led the Dolphins in catches as a rookie last year, and did so again in the season opener last week, with eight receptions for 53 yards at Washington. He also returned a punt 69 yards for the touchdown that put Miami ahead to stay, and was chosen AFC special teams player of the week.
The performance met his goal for this season.
“I want to progress,” he said. “I want to continue to be dominant. That’s my mindset, and that’s how I’m approaching every game.”
That’s no change, but Landry’s surrounding cast of pass-catching targets is mostly new. The Dolphins acquired Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron during the offseason.
While the newcomers are widely considered an upgrade, in the opener they combined for eight catches – the same number Landry totaled.
Landry caught 84 passes last year, a Dolphins rookie record. He averaged only 9.0 yards per catch, working mostly in the role of a possession receiver, but coach Joe Philbin believes experience will help him evolve into more of a downfield threat.
Landry expects more chunk yardage this year for himself and his teammates.
“With the addition of Kenny, Greg and DeVante, it allows the offense to be a little bit more open,” Landry said. “Hopefully that results in a couple more big plays for everybody. With our team it’s only a matter of time.”
Landry’s not a speedster, which is why he lasted until the second round of the 2014 draft. But he is elusive, and his big-play ability was evident Sunday when he broke up the middle untouched with 10 minutes left to score on a 69-yard punt return.
“When he has his hands on the ball, he’s dangerous,” Philbin said. “He’s a weapon and a tough guy, and those things were personified in that one play.”
That one play earned Landry the AFC special teams award, and he was tickled by the honor.
“It means everything to me to have your performance highlighted,” he said.
It was Landry’s first kick return for a touchdown, but he showed a burst on special teams last year. He averaged 28.1 yards on kickoff returns, fourth in the NFL, and 8.2 on punt returns.
By midseason, Landry had emerged as Ryan Tannehill’s favorite receiver. He finished only six catches shy of O.J. McDuffie’s 1998 team record for receptions, and he has now caught at least five passes in 10 consecutive games, a team record.
“He’s a playmaker for us,” Tannehill said, “and we’re going to continue to find ways to get him the ball.”
The Dolphins would prefer to take Landry off special teams because of the risk to the health of their top receiver. They gave LaMike James a tryout as a returner during the exhibition season, but he fumbled a kickoff return Sunday and was released the next day.
They signed undrafted rookie returner Raheem Mostert as a potential replacement. But Landry might be running back kicks Sunday at Jacksonville.
“I’m happy to do it,” he said. “As many times as I get the ball in my hands is a plus, and wherever I’m needed, I’m willing to do the job.”