ORLANDO—These are guys you want to keep.
These should be your favorite Dolphins.
These are the jerseys you want to buy, although you might want to save the receipt depending on which one you get.
Reshad Jones and Jarvis Landry took the field for Sunday’s Pro Bowl with all the enthusiasm and flash that’s endeared them to South Florida, thoroughly enjoying themselves despite a downpour throughout the AFC’s 24-23 win at Camping World Stadium, and—even in an exhibition game—reminded everyone why they’re indispensable.
Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh remain gigantic stars for the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill is always going to be in the spotlight and Kenyan Drake might ultimately put himself in their tier as well. But Jones and Landry already embody everything the Dolphins want to be known for and should be around for many years to come.
It was a big day for Jones after missing most of last season due to a shoulder injury and having to push through months of rehabilitation to get himself back to the top. He immediately resumed his position as arguably the most dangerous player on Miami’s defense and put up a season of 122 tackles and three fumble recoveries, including two he returned for touchdowns.
The trip to Orlando isn’t a big deal for everyone, especially guys who know they’ll be here every year, but Jones wasn’t so nonchalant. Seeing the fans, his peers and the coaches vote him as a Pro Bowl starter was a landmark in his career.
“I’m embracing the moment,” said Jones, who had two tackles. “It feels good to be out there with the best of the best, man. It shows all my hard work and dedication was not in vain. People are watching.”
On the NFC’s opening series, Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph caught a 16-yard pass in the red zone, and Jones couldn’t help himself. He clawed vigorously hoping to strip the ball from him until the official blew the whistle.
Predictably, Landry was just as intense. He caught a 7-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger late in the first quarter, already making it a better experience than his catch-less night a year ago, and broke into an all-out sprint down the right sideline to catch a 49-yarder from Alex Smith in the second. He finished with five catches for 78 yards.
It’s probably been an illuminating week for Landry as he’s practiced with Roethlisberger, Smith and Derek Carr while hanging out with some of the biggest, most highly paid stars in the league. Many of the other skill players here, including some of his closest friends, have already hit the enormous payday that awaits Landry in March.
Several teams should line up to hand him a massive contract after seeing what he’s done in the first four years of his career. They aren’t nitpicking his size or his speed or how neat he keeps his locker. They see a No. 1 option, regardless of him doing his work in the slot, coming off a year of 112 catches, 987 yards and nine touchdowns.
“It’s very hard,” Landry said of being elite at slot receiver. “It’s having instincts for the game… and understanding that you’re going to have to make contact catches, because you’re there in the mix.
“Another part for me is I love to block. So being in there, I get a chance to block linebackers, safeties, sometimes D-ends, which is fun for me. I don’t think a lot of guys are up for it.”
Landry’s always up for it. Good luck finding another 100-catch, 1,000-yard receiver who thinks it’s “fun” to block people like Melvin Ingram in free agency and the draft. That might take a while.
One thing he said this week was that he wants to be play for a team that loves his gritty demeanor on the field and embraces the personality he brings to the locker room. He’s said a million times he wants the Dolphins to be that organization, and it sure seemed like they were right up until it was time to talk money.
Landry hasn’t gushed about all the attractive destinations awaiting him in free agency, but must have crossed his mind this week. Imagine his numbers if he joined up with Drew Brees. Imagine his popularity in an enormous market like Chicago. Imagine the fun of playing for an emerging team like Jacksonville or San Francisco instead of the 30-34 sludge he’s endured with Miami.
If the Dolphins extended him last year or had an agreement in place this offseason, Landry wouldn’t be doing any of that wistful thinking and that dread wouldn’t be churning in their fans’ stomachs.
He’s made three Pro Bowls in four years with the team, and he’ll keep turning up here no matter what uniform he’s wearing. Jones, meanwhile, shows no sign of slowing down as he approaches his 30th birthday and is under contract through 2022.
When the NFL did player introductions by team before the game, the powerhouse Steelers had nine players on the stage. What a luxury. When it was the Dolphins’ turn, they had only Jones and Landry. If they make the right move with Landry, those two will be up there every year.
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook