There are plenty of numbers that, on their own, would make you think that Jordan Reed had a strong 2018 season.
For example, Reed suited up for 13 of 16 Redskins' games this season, tying a career-high for his most action as a pro. That is a terrific sign for a guy who's been labeled as injury-prone the bulk of his career.
The tight end hauled in 54 catches in those appearances, meanwhile. That put him at a solid average of more than four per contest, was good enough to lead all 'Skins pass catchers by 10 grabs and tied him for No. 10 in the league at his position.
And finally, he posted 10.3 yards-per-catch, which is right in line with what he's done throughout his six years in Washington.
So, after looking at all of that, why does it still feel like No. 86 came up well short of expectations for the Burgundy and Gold?
Well, there's another number that explains why.
Before 2018, Reed's worst catch percentage was 74.2-percent, which came in 2016. Overall, 76.2-percent of his targets ended up as receptions from 2013-2017.
In 2018, however, he caught just 64.3-percent of throws that went his way, by far his worst ever output.
Certainly, it's a stat that lends credence to the thought that Alex Smith and Reed just couldn't find a rhythm between each other before Smith went down with his broken leg. In fact, Reed's catch rate equaled or topped 75-percent just twice in his 10 games when paired with Smith (Weeks 1 and 2, weirdly enough).
By comparison, he made it to that mark in each of the two matchups after Smith's injury before he himself suffered a season-ending injury in Week 14.
Now, there are essentially two ways to process all of this information.
The first, and significantly more positive, way is to point to Reed's lack of work at training camp and lack of connection with Smith and conclude that the entire campaign was one, big aberration. He should be a full-go in upcoming offseason work and training camp, which should help him return to his usual catch percentage.
"Guys who miss those opportunities to get better and stronger sometimes struggle throughout the course of the year, but having that will be beneficial to him," Gruden said of Reed in December when the Redskins placed him on I.R.
The other, and far darker, way is to believe that the constant lower-body issues that have plagued the 28-year-old are starting to catch up to him and beginning to sap him of his innate ability to get open. Could this be who Reed will become as he gets older and should the franchise move on before he gets worse?
Gruden, for one, doesn't believe so.
"He is a difference maker on offense," the head coach explained at his wrap-up presser following Week 17. "Tight ends that can win in zone and man coverage are hard to find... He is a dynamic player, a great athlete, works extremely hard, a great kid, never late and he's a big part of the success of this football team moving forward in my opinion."
When he's fully right, Reed really is a difference maker like Gruden said, and the Redskins don't boast many of those on their roster. Therefore, hoping that 2018 was an anomaly and keeping him around for 2019 is probably the way to go.
With that being said, it's fair to be concerned about the steep drop in such a key statistical area for a receiver. As Gruden detailed, tight ends that get open against all types of coverage are very difficult to acquire, but does Reed still qualify as one of those players?
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