Jordan Reed is evolving into one of the best tight ends in football. He is too big for most defensive backs to cover and way to quick to be handles by a linebacker. The third-year player became the first tight end to lead the Redskins in receptions (87), receiving yards (952), and receiving touchdowns (11) in almost 40 years (Jean Fugett did it in 1977).
Where did Reed develop his ability to leave defenders in the dust? It wasn’t on football fields as he was growing up; it was from playing another sport.
“Basketball, for sure,” for sure said Reed when asked where he developed his moves. “I played a lot of basketball growing up, street ball. I never played on teams or anything like that. But I played hour after hour in the summertime, after school all day long playing ball with my boys.”
(Are parents who insist that their kids specialize in one sport listening here?)
Reed played well all year long but he really caught fire at the end of the season. In the last four games of the year he caught 29 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns, despite playing less than a half in the final game in Dallas. Reed credits the fact that the team finally got all of its pass-catching weapons healthy and in a groove when DeSean Jackson rounded into form after missing most of the first seven games with a hamstring injury.
“Everybody’s making their plays, everybody’s contributing,” said Reed. “All the potential we have is finally starting to show up.”
Reed is happy to do his part. His size has proven to be a particular asset when the team gets close to the goal line.
“I always feel like I can help the team win if I make the plays I need to make,” he said. They use me a lot in the red zone so if I’m playing well that means I’m catching the ball in the red zone and that means I’m scoring touchdowns. I feel like if I’m doing that we’ve got a chance to win.”
Of Reed’s 82 receptions this year, 16 (20 percent) came on plays that started in the red zone. That is twice the number of red zone receptions that any other Redskins player had and was second in the NFL, one behind the Steelers’ Antonio Brown. Ten of his 11 touchdown receptions were in the red zone.
Reed’s presence helped Kirk Cousins become one of the better red zone quarterbacks in the game. He threw 22 touchdowns and no interceptions on plays from the opponent’s 20 on in and he posted a 109.7 passer rating, third among quarterbacks with at least 70 red zone passing attempts.
As a whole, the team showed great improvement in the red zone and it was one of the main factors in their improvement from four wins in 2014 to nine wins this season. Last year they converted 47.9 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns, 26th in the NFL. This year their conversion rate jumped to 61.2 percent, eighth in the league.