Despite some early flashes in Training Camp, it’s clear that Harold Landry still has some improving to do before joining the starting lineup.
On just the second day of 2018 Tennessee Titans Training Camp, linebacker Brian Orakpo suffered a shoulder injury. He hasn’t practiced since.
Orakpo’s absence has allowed rookie Harold Landry to get a surplus of playing time with the Titans’ starters. So far, Landry has taken great advantage of the opportunity.
Landry was expected by many analysts to be a top fifteen pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, thanks to his valuable ability to quickly get off the ball and bend around the edge. A popular pro comparison for Landry prior to the draft was Falcons defensive end, Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks in 2016.
Instead, Landry surprisingly fell to the ninth pick of the second round. That’s when the Titans traded up to grab him by sending their own second and third round picks to the Oakland Raiders.
The two biggest knocks on Landry prior to the draft were 1) that he was undersized and 2) that he was a bit of a one-trick pony—his pass rush arsenal had been mostly limited to a speed rush.
While Landry can do nothing aside from bulking up a bit to change his size, he can work to develop a better pass rush arsenal. The extra reps he’s getting in practice will go a long way toward doing that.
Taylor Lewan just man-handled Harold Landry.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) August 6, 2018
But, according to head coach Mike Vrabel, Landry still has plenty of work to do in that department. “I think he has to work on his strength. You can see that he’s going against bigger players, stronger players. I think his effort and attitude have been really good, he continues to try to work and improve. He does have the ability to transfer speed into power.”
Landry agreed with his coach’s assertion, adding that he particularly needs to improve his abilities when opponents run the football. “I’m definitely working on improving in the run game, but like I said when you have who I think is the fastest offensive tackle coming off the ball at you every play, you’re bound to improve. I think I am making strides at that.”
The biggest benefit of Landry working primarily with the Titans’ starters is that he has been frequently matched up with Taylor Lewan, a 2-time Pro Bowler. Lewan has gotten the best of Landry a handful of times, particularly in Monday’s practice.
However, Landry’s early struggles against Lewan will only go to help him improve and be well prepared when he faces other tackles in game situations.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better camp to come to than the Tennessee Titans,” said Landry when asked about facing Lewan every day. “As a rookie to be able to go up against who I think is the best offensive tackle in the NFL, I can see myself getting better every day going against him. I’m lucky to be able to go against him every day. I’m excited because I’m getting better.”
Vrabel also agreed that facing Lewan will be a big help for Landry down the road. “The battles with Taylor are going to help Harold in the long run. Sometimes he gets frustrated because he’s a player that had a lot of success in college, and I remind him that it’s not always going to be like that at this level. He continues to work, he’s trying new moves, he’s trying different things, which is why you practice.”
#Titans: I continue to be impressed with Harold Landry. Guy is explosive off the ball. The bend everyone talks about is real. And he keeps getting tons of reps with Orakpo out. https://t.co/KIYsCm4c7i
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) August 4, 2018
Not only is Landry getting help from Lewan between the whistles, but after the whistle as well. Lewan often offers advice and technical tips to Landry after the play. It’s an effort that Landry has noticed and appreciated. “He sees the bigger picture, he sees that we’re still teammates and he actually cares about my development as a player. I knew him before I even got drafted. It means a lot that he’s looking out for me, and he wants me to get the best out of me every day.”
Landry has shown plenty of flashes so far in Training Camp. Particularly when he gets to face Dennis Kelly on the right side of the offensive line, his impressive speed rush has been on full display.
There is, however, still a lot of work for Landry to do. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are still firmly entrenched as the Titans’ starters at outside linebacker, and it will take some time before that changes.
Cover image via Titans Online.