The Methods Of An NFL Hatchet Man

The newly accessible NFL coaches’ film lets us see how multi-dimensionally vicious safeties like the Jets’ LaRon Landry do their job.

Rich Schultz / Getty Images

In the first game of the 2012 season, the New York Jets dominated the Buffalo Bills in part due to the performance of new acquisition LaRon Landry, a ranging, hyper-athletic, brutal safety. Landry is one of those players the NFL is trying to cut down on: a vicious hammerhead shark who tends to leave his feet helmet-first when making tackles. These players often injure themselves and others — but it’s hard for teams to pass them up, because their gonzo approach makes them so effective. With the NFL at last releasing video that shows all the players on the field at once, it’s easier than ever to see their thrilling/frightening style in action.

2. Watch this third-down stop.

Under heavy pressure, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick still manages to get a pass off, and Darelle Revis is a step behind receiver Steve Johnson. Positioned in the secondary, Landry doesn’t even start moving toward Johnson until Fitzpatrick releases the throw. But he makes up six yards almost instantly; by the time the ball arrives Johnson is stopped cold a step in front of the first-down marker, forcing a Bills punt.

3. Steve Johnson’s transition from “running forward” to “sitting on the ground” is quite abrupt.

4. Here Landry’s explosiveness nearly makes up for a derf by Kyle Wilson.

Play action by the Bills draws Jets corner Kyle Wilson into the box. (We’re assuming he wasn’t assigned to blitz because after he sees the play is a pass he just kind of runs along in no-man’s land doing nothing.) That means that Landry, circled in red, is left to cover Bills TE Scott Chandler.

5. Almost made it.

6. This is what happens when someone tackles you with a 15-yard head start.

Much like former Colts safety Bob Sanders, Landry has dealt with injuries in the past (he only played 17 games over the last two seasons) because of his aggressive style of play. And it goes both ways; here, he annihilates Fred Jackson by launching himself into Jackson’s upper thigh, a legal, though brutal, hit.

7. Here’s a closer look.

With Calvin Pace tracking him from behind, Jackson — who has a history of leg injuries — gets even more tripped up. Jackson left the field after this play and didn’t return.

8. Landry’s football persona is all-around intense, and he celebrates after laying Jackson out. He later said he didn’t know Jackson was injured.

9. Speaking of terrifying running starts…

Landry’s ability to cover huge swaths of the field means that he can start in the backfield and then quickly get to the QB. Despite his many flaws, Ryan Fitzpatrick actually has a pretty quick release — last year, his sack % of 3.7 was third-best in the league — and, though he completes this pass to Stevie Johnson, Landry hits him as he throws the ball. QBs that get hit all day don’t tend to play that well.

10. Same thing here. Fitzpatrick scores, but pays the price.

Nice throw, Harvard boy.

11. Landry’s hyperaggressiveness does have its drawbacks, though. On this play, he hits Bills RB Johnny White after he’s already gone out of bounds, meriting a 15-yard late-hit penalty.

13. And his tendency to look for the big hit can backfire in the open field against more elusive players.

14. But overall, Landry’s technique tends to work more often than it doesn’t.

Bills RB C.J. Spiller lines up in the slot, and Landry takes him on in man coverage. Landry gets beat, and Spiller looks poised to make a big gain. But Landry chases him down and forces a fumble, essentially killing any chance the Bills had of staying in the game.

15. A closer look at the forced fumble shows Landry leaving his feet (legally, because the receiver isn’t defenseless) and attaching himself to Spiller, forcing the fumble through sheer physical power.

Because of the violence with which they play the game, these types of guys end up getting fined and vilified by the NFL, and not without reason, since it is the league’s job to try and protect its players. But they’re useful, and until that fact changes, this kind of athlete will stick around.

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