Thoughts and observations: Jordan Reed

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

Taking a look at the Redskins’ third-round pick, tight end Jordan Reed (thanks to Video Draft Breakdown for making so many clips available):

  1. It’s hard to imagine Jordan Reed is a future replacement for Fred Davis if he leaves via free agency. That is, not if the Redskins want someone who can block and catch. Davis has developed as a blocker, but his size and strength were never the issue. Technique and desire were. The Redskins stretch zone scheme demands that the tight ends do a good job blocking, often from a three-point stance. That will be difficult for Reed, not just this year but for a few years. That’s not a knock, it’s just not his strength. But Reed should be a good complementary target in the pass game, giving them what they likely wanted from Niles Paul last season.
  2. I’ll get back to the blocking soon, but first want to focus on Reed’s athleticism. He’s a former quarterback so it’s obvious that he’s a good athlete. Florida capitalized on this and the Redskins will as well. The Gators lined up him along the line, in the slot, split wide, in the front of the bunch formation and also in the back. He could line up in the backfield, too, though I did not see that as much if at all. They used him on shovel passes and screens, too. The athleticism flashed in bunches during college, including, for example when he caught an onside kick and sprinted about 40 yards like it was nothing. Not many tight ends can make that play, but in reality Reed is a glorified big receiver. Think of him that way.
  3. If Reed helps, he will become a mismatch type of player, especially when paired with Davis and/or Logan Paulsen. At 6-foot-2, 236 pounds he’s bigger than safeties but his quickness will make him tough for linebackers. It’s not just his 4.72 time in the 40-yard dash, it’s also his footwork and initial quickness. If Reed can play, linebackers could have a tough time matching up with him out of the backfield.
  4. Reed runs well after the catch, again looking like a receiver when he starts running. I saw him run well in traffic against South Carolina and I saw him more often than not making the first defender miss after the catch. It didn’t always happen – Texas A&M did a good job (after some early YAC) of tackling him immediately. But it’s something Reed definitely offers.  Also, with tight ends it used to be that it’s tough to throw the ball high to them because they somehow weren’t as athletic to make a leaping catch. Davis doesn’t have that issue and neither does Reed. Saw him make a couple leaping or twisted grabs. Also saw him run good wheel routes vs. linebackers. I liked how he sold one play in the red zone. He came off the line to the inside, as if he were going to a linebacker. The defense reacted as if it were a run and he turned to the back of the end zone for an easy, wide-open touchdown catch. He helped sell the play.
  5. There are a couple catches and runs that stand out. Against Texas A&M last year, Reed ran a quick out, caught the ball and turned upfield. A defender dove at his legs but Reed hopped over and kept running. Another defender took a bad angle and Reed continued down the side, cutting inside a block and finishing with 26 yards after the catch. Against Florida State, Reed made a few nice grabs: lunging left and spinning back to the right after the grab for more YAC; sliding in the zone as the QB steps up, creating a gap that enabled Reed to get 16 yards after the catch; and slipping a tackle at the point of attack on a middle screen for an extra 23 yards – he also gained five more yards at the end of the run after more contact.
  6. He’ll learn that he can’t hurdle defenders in the NFL like he did in college. It worked a couple times, but it did not work vs. A&M. After spinning out of the grasp of a linebacker, he tried to hurdle another defender on the ground at the Aggies’ 5-yard line. But he was loose with the ball and another defender on the side stripped him of the ball, resulting in a touchback.
  7. Now, his blocking. Safe to say this isn’t  his strength. At times it appears he struggles because perhaps he needs to get stronger; other times it’s a matter of technique, something the Redskins can work on. One of their smarter coaches happens to be tight ends coach Sean McVay. Players have to want to improve first and foremost, but there’s no doubt both Davis and Paulsen have done so under him.  But Reed has a ways to go as a blocker. Sometimes his base will be fine, but his head is too low and he’ll lunge. Against Georgia one time, Reed was in a three-point stance and headed to an inside linebacker. But when he blocked him, Reed was almost at the ‘backers’ midsection. The ‘backer easily shed him and helped make a tackle. Sustaining blocks vs. strong players was an issue.
  8. Reed did block well in space and that’s exactly how the Redskins would use him (though he will need to block along the line, as Paul also had to do on occasion). When Reed was along the line his best blocks came against slanting defensive linemen and all he had to do was ride the guy inside. He did a good job getting his head in the right spots to help him do this. Reed was more effective in this way vs. A&M. Still, he struggled to hold blocks. And I would not want him one-on-one with an NFL end or linebacker for a while. OK, one sack he allowed came vs. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, but Reed just could not react in time to slow him off the edge (or lacked the strength to bump off stride). Again, that will take time and, yes, Clowney is a stud. But he’s the sort of player he’ll face in the NFL in those spots. The Gators often gave him help in those situations.
  9. However, in space Reed had better results, especially downfield vs. defensive backs when he can rely on athleticism as much as technique or strength. Against Florida State Reed helped finish a long touchdown run with a block on a DB in the open field. That’s how he’ll be used here, similar to Paul, who often served as a pulling tight end on some plays, enabling him to match up against DBs. Reed didn’t always win his blocks in space, but it’s where he’ll have more success. He’s one of the more intriguing players because if he pans out he’ll provide the Redskins’ offense with a little more versatility and flexibility. I’m anxious to see how Reed develops; I really liked this pick.

 

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner