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Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Rookie report: Jordan Reed

By John Keim

Tight end Jordan Reed, a third-round pick from Florida, could easily end up being the best pick from this draft. Right now his only competition would be second-round cornerback David Amerson. Even if Amerson plays well, it's easy to see that Reed could become one of the better players at his position because of his game-breaking ability. Here's the book on his rookie season:

Stats: Reed caught 45 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. He missed the final six games because of a concussion.

Jordan Reed
Rookie tight end Jordan Reed showed a lot of promise before a concussion ended his season.
Role: Reed began the season as the No. 3 tight end, but surpassed starter Fred Davis as the primary pass-catcher within three games.

Highlight: Reed caught nine passes for 143 yards and a game-winning three-yard touchdown grab in a 45-41 win against Chicago.

What I liked: Just about everything, starting with his approach and his talent. Reed consistently stayed after practice to work on his game; after being drafted he hit the weights hard, and that helped him improve as a blocker. He understands what he must work on to improve. I list those things first because it’s why the kid has a chance to be good for a long time. As for his game, there is a lot to like. Reed’s athleticism was obvious in camp, and his ability to create separation is fantastic. There were times in games I saw him create five yards of space as he cut (against Chicago), just because of a hard plant the other way. He used footwork that he once used for basketball moves to separate from linebackers over the middle. He showed a knack for knowing when to sit in an area against zone coverage. Saw this against the Bears when the linebackers over the middle were less than seven yards apart. Rather than continue his route, he quickly sat and caught a pass. Reed became a trusted target because of his wide catch radius, as the coaches liked to say. Here’s a better way: he’s highly athletic and makes terrific adjustments on the ball. Sometimes they were so subtle that you forget it’s hard for tight ends to make those grabs. On one out route, the ball was thrown inside, but Reed easily spun back the other way for the grab. There were many such examples, but it enabled Robert Griffin III to throw with more trust to Reed. Reed's blocking was better than anticipated after watching him in college, where he transitioned from quarterback. He did a good job blocking in space because of how he moved his feet -- it helped him a lot against Dallas linebacker Sean Lee on a screen. He typically did a nice job with his hands, though his blocking was definitely inconsistent. Reed plays with enthusiasm, though that was evident more so after his blocks than his big catches.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. But there were areas he must improve. His blocking needs to be more consistent. I saw improvement in this area. There were times early in the season when he would go to engage defenders, but lower his head too much when he blocked. I did not see that being an issue later in the season. But he must learn how to block for situations. At times he was beat not because he was overpowered, but because he failed to account for how his man was aligned compared to what he might have faced in other games. That didn’t happen often, but it did occur. Durability will be a question until he plays an entire season. That’s not to fault him for getting a concussion; it was bad enough to cause him to miss six games, so clearly there was a legitimate issue. But Reed knows that he entered the NFL with questions about his durability.

Projection: He’ll be a force at this position if he stays healthy. Reed had just started to become more of a downfield threat before he was hurt. The bulk of his passes before the Bears game in Week 7 were underneath routes, but he hurt Chicago on a couple downfield throws, burning the Bears secondary on some post-corners. That will increase in 2014. The Redskins averaged 37 fewer yards through the air with Reed absent the final six games. I don’t know what Jay Gruden’s plans are for him, but I do know that new offensive coordinator Sean McVay loves Reed and it’s not hard for anyone to see the talent he has just by flipping on the film.