I can say without hyperbole that Derek Landri is god’s gift to mankind. Landri hasn’t cured cancer or solved world hunger, but that’s what the offseason is for. Right now Landri is focused on single-handedly destroying the New York Jets. I’m sure Rex Ryan is trying to find a way to put Landri on Revis Island. Go ahead Rexie, but be careful what you ask for. Revis just might get evicted. Welcome to Landri Land.
People ask me if writing stuff like that is my way of making fun of Derek Landri. No, not at all. Landri is a terrific football player. I love goofing around. I used to say that my dream was marrying Megan Fox and adopting Eric Berry to be our son. That way we could get him to force his way onto the Eagles (ala Eli not wanting to go to the Chargers). I also threatened to fill an abandoned volcano in Delaware with hostages and kill them all if the Eagles failed to draft Berry. Now I’m trying to come up with a good plan for how to get Luke Kuechly onto the Eagles.
As you know, I do a lot of writing. Just being super-serious and saying normal things over and over would be extremely boring. Plus, with certain players I’m trying to emphasize something about them. I watch a tremendous amount of football. When I fall in love with a player or covet a player, that guy is doing something unique. Derek Landri isn’t the Eagles best DT. That is Cullen Jenkins. Landri is special, though. He’s not just an effort guy. He’s not just good at one thing. Landri is a darn good football player.
I’ve watched Landri going back to his college days. I was happy when the Eagles signed him, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t closely studied him in a while. Landri played very well in the preseason. He jumped out at you when watching games live and was equally impressive when studying the games later on. I became an official fan of his after his sack celebration where he crawled on the ground and then acted like he threw a grenade. That was the ultimate combination of cool and goofy.
I was shocked when Landri got cut. To me, he’d flat out earned a spot on the team. Keeping Trevor Laws over him was a mistake. I was also shocked that Landri sat around with no one going after him. He did work out for the Falcons and Bengals, but they didn’t sign him. Fools. How could a guy like Landri go unsigned when DT play is so mediocre on so many teams?
First, there is a herd mentality in the NFL. “If the Eagles cut him, they must know something.” That kind of thing. Second, preseason games can give you a false read on veteran players. Veterans who are on the roster bubble play with a sense of urgency. Often they are facing mediocre competition and going all out to impress the team. Veterans can look really good. Remember how impressive Jarrad Page was in the preseason? I was blown away by how good he was. The difference is that Page didn’t play well in 2010. Landri had a very productive season for Carolina. His summer tape wasn’t an anomaly. Page’s was.
The other thing is that making it in the NFL takes some luck. A lot of guys just get lost in the shuffle. Back in 1995 Ray Rhodes signed DT Kevin Johnson off the street. He’d been on a Practice Squad in 1993, but was out of football in 1994 entirely. He worked in his parents liquor store. Johnson had 6 sacks for the ’95 Eagles. DE Daniel Stubbs had a nice career going, but was out of the league in 1994. He got cut by the Bengals in the summer of that year and just sat out the season. He had 5.5 sacks and a FF for us in ’95. Stubbs signed a good deal with the Dolphins after that year. Back in 2000 the Eagles needed help at S and on STs. The team signed Je’Rod Cherry off the street. He was a terrific STer that year. I remember wondering how this guy sat around for 3 weeks with no calls. Just because a guy is on the street or is unwanted doesn’t mean he’s untalented. It takes some luck to succeed in the NFL. Players need the right systems and/or the right roles to help them play their best.
Back to Landri. Some people have asked me why he’s not starting. Landri is being used perfectly by the Eagles right now. You know how in basketball there is a 6th man? That’s Landri. He doesn’t start, but he’s on the field a lot and he’s on the field in key situations. Don’t mess with a good thing.
Landri mostly plays RDT and the role of NT. He lines up between the C and LG and his job is to hold his ground if they get a clear double team on him. If possible, he should try and get upfield before they can engage him. Derek has good initial quickness. He can explode off the ball if he times the snap just right, but he’s smart enough not to rely on that on a regular basis. Derek is a wily veteran. He picks and chooses when to do certain things. He used a hard outside move near the GL Sunday and blew up a running play in the backfield. Sometimes Derek will fire into the side of the C and then try to peel off him and into the backfield. Derek plays with very good leverage. He’s only 6’2, 285 or so, but is able to hold his ground with effort and leverage. Remember Darwin Walker? He was bigger and stronger than Landri, but wanted no part of taking on double teams or holding his ground. Derek is willing to do the dirty work. That attitude is huge. DT isn’t a fun position. You must embrace the role if you’re going to succeed. Derek has a great motor and hustles in pursuit when the ball goes out wide or downfield. He also uses his hands really well. That helps him to shed blocks and fight off OL.
One of the things I love about Landri is that good things seem to happen when he’s on the field. On Sunday he was on the field for:
* Hunt’s safety (Derek was close to getting the safety himself)
* Babin’s strip sack and FR (Derek was right there to recover, but Patt beat him to it)
* Coleman’s INT (Derek hit the QB on the play)
* several short yardage stops
* TFL on GL run
That’s not bad for a backup DT. He was also on the field for other big plays this year.
* Babin’s strip sack to seal the Giants win (Derek made the FR)
* Asante’s pick-six vs ARZ
I haven’t had a chance to go through and catalog everything, but you can see that good things happen when he’s out there. That’s not all coincidence.
Landri is a free agent at the end of the year. He signed a 1-year deal so the Eagles can’t extend him, but they better bring this guy back. He’s proven to be a valuable player. Plus, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to all those hostages in the volcano. I never released them after Eric Berry went to the Chiefs. I knew they’d be handy in the future.
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Just for fun…Trevor Laws numbers vs Landri’s:
Laws – 19 total tackles – 1 sack – 1 pass deflection – 2 TFLs
Landri – 16 total tackles – 1 sack – 1 pass deflection – 5 TFLs – 1 FR
Keep in mind that Landri played in fewer games and is also playing a tougher position.