ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- From Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe to Desmond Clark to Dwayne Carswell to Jeb Putzier to Tony Scheffler to Daniel Graham, the tight end always had a prominent role in the Denver Broncos’ offense during Mike Shanahan’s 14-year tenure as the team’s head coach.
And when Shanahan brings the Washington Redskins to Denver this weekend he will bring an emerging player at the position in rookie Jordan Reed. Reed was taken in the third round -- 85th overall -- this past April because Shanahan saw the potential of an impact pass catcher.
Some personnel folks in the league believed Reed may have a difficult time transitioning into a full slate of work as an NFL tight end, at least initially at 6-foot-2 1/2 and 236 pounds at the scouting combine last February. Shanahan said when the Redskins looked at Reed before the draft they “felt we had a guy that was very special catching the football, very special in and out of breaks, more like a wide receiver than a tight end’’ and that the question was whether or not Reed would be able to hold up in a blocking role.
But when the Redskins put him in the offense they then believed they had a player who could function as a blocker. Jordan is just 23, having left Florida after his junior season.
He has become a bigger part of the Redskins offense as the weeks have gone by, with this past Sunday’s effort against the Bears being his breakout: nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos have had their issues at times this season with opposing tight ends, something that carried over from last season.
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard's neck injury, which has has kept him out of the past two games, hasn’t helped matters. Because of Reed’s athleticism the Broncos will have to consider matching a safety on him. Reed’s routes aren’t that of a big man. He is sharp in and out of his cuts and his footwork along the boundary is that of a wideout.
Reed, who arrived to Florida as a quarterback and who rushed for five touchdowns and threw for three more as a freshman, has a good feel for where the soft spots are in zone coverages.
In seven games opposing tight ends have 43 catches against the Broncos for 568 yards -- that’s 13.2 yards per catch -- led by Jason Witten's 121 yards on seven catches in Dallas. The Broncos have limited the group to two touchdowns, one by Witten and one by the Colts’ Coby Fleener this past Sunday, but Reed will certainly be on the radar this week.