Reed was a more prominent part of the Redskins passing game in Sunday’s victory over Green Bay. Considering his importance to the offense and quarterback Alex Smith’s history with tight ends, that should only continue.
In Washington's passing game, Reed often is the focal point. But Reed isn’t the only tight end worth throwing to on the roster, as Vernon Davis has been a big-play target the past two seasons. Despite being reunited -- they played seven seasons together in San Francisco --– Smith and Davis haven’t connected often in three games. Davis has been targeted just four times, catching all four.
Against the Packers, Reed caught four passes for 65 yards and Davis caught two for 70 yards. The Redskins had only 12 completions in 20 attempts. If they’re running well with Adrian Peterson, that will naturally limit their pass attempts. They also want to get running back Chris Thompson involved in the passing game, as well as their wide receivers. But Reed is their best target when healthy.
“There’s a concerted effort to get Jordan involved every week and really, he’s a great player,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We’re trying to manage him early in the season, make sure he gets back to full strength. Whether he’s there or not, he’s looking better and better each week at practice and helping at the games. It’s good to get Vernon Davis some shot plays down the field.”
Reed had offseason surgery on both big toes, correcting an issue that plagued him most of the previous two seasons. It meant he was unable to start running until July. Reed is one of the Redskins’ hardest workers in the offseason, so for him to lose that preparation time set him back. Slowly, though, he has said he does feel his burst and explosiveness returning.
Last week, Gruden said the Redskins aren't overworking Reed because they have more options -- they like Jeremy Sprinkle, especially as a blocker -- and it's about keeping their top tight end healthy.
“He's going to get more and more as the season goes on,” Gruden said of Reed. “As Jordan gets more comfortable, and when we feel great about his health -- which we do right now -- I think you'll see more and more of Jordan."
Reed said recently, “I feel very good about where my body is at right now.”
Reed’s modest output in Week 2 stemmed more from coverage scheme more than anything about his body. Indianapolis played a soft Tampa 2, so a linebacker ran with Reed down the middle of the Cover 2 zone any time he went out for a pass. The Colts played that look at least 75 percent of the game.
On Sunday, Green Bay played more man coverage. When in zone, the Packers did not use the Tampa 2 look. Reed’s yards per catch went from 9.2 against the Colts to 16.3 against the Packers.
“It’s more about the multidimensional offense we’ve had,” Reed said. “When you can’t run and they can just sit back in a Cover 2, Tampa 2, it’s going to be hard.”
Reed showed his effectiveness on a 34-yard catch-and-run against Green Bay. The Packers played zone with their linebackers, but he got Clay Matthews to widen by faking a cut outside, then turning back inside to an open area. After the catch, Reed hit an open gap.
Davis reminded everyone of what he can still do on his 50-yard catch. His defender was screened, so all Davis needed to do was release outside and sprint down the sideline. Smith has a history with Davis; he’s thrown more touchdown passes to him (30) than anyone else in his career. But Smith and Reed, who did not play in the preseason, did not work in a game together until the regular-season opener.
“The more all of us continue to work together, all those reps, you just bank that stuff and it gets better and better,” Smith said. “With certainly Jordan in the games, you just continue to build on all those reps you’ve had together.”