The Redskins drafted tight end Jordan Reed, from Florida, in the third round despite already having three players at that spot -- all of whom will make the final roster. But Reed's talent was too much for the Redskins to pass up.
What he’s learning: How to run routes in the NFL. Reed has quick feet in and out of breaks, which leads to separation. But he’s still learning how to run with more patience and also to the proper depth -- and why that’s important. First, the patience. Because Reed knew the game was faster in the NFL, he said he wanted to run his routes faster. That led to botched timing between he and the quarterback. But there are strides being made. Monday, he was covered by a linebacker at the line but Reed hesitated before making his first move, gave a shake and broke free only to encounter another defender, but he stayed under control on his break and broke free to the inside for a catch. A subtle, but effective play. Reed also has encountered the need to perfect a second-level release. Typically in college he’d encounter a defender at the line and head on his route. In the NFL, as in the above play, there could one at the line and another five yards downfield. Earlier in camp, Reed once got caught up with linebacker Bryan Kehl, preventing him from finishing his route. Reed has learned how to deal with this by using his hands better or by “shouldering through” -- dipping his shoulder slightly to the side of his route so the defender might nudge him in the direction he wanted to run. Or it’s just a matter of being more patient.
“He has a natural feel for how to separate,” tight ends coach Sean McVay said. “He has a savviness in the pass game. You don’t have to do too much. You just give him a plan and let him play.”
“The speed is slowing down a lot,” Reed said. “I don’t think I’m there yet, but throughout the season I’ll get there.”
What needs to be seen: Consistency. Part of this stems from missing the spring practices while recovering from a quad injury. And last week he missed two days of practice and the first preseason game with a bruised right foot, so that didn’t help his progression. But this also applies to the rest of his game. Another example from Monday involved his blocking. Both Reed and the coaches have said they’re pleasantly surprised with his blocking. But this was a big knock on him in college so he has to show it in a game and on an everyday basis. And Monday was a sub-par day in his mind. This partly results from his missing time last week, leading to inconsistency upon his return.
“I was missing on my hands a lot,” he said. “Bad hand placement, lackadaisical hand placement. I was just being lazy. … I’ll make that a focal point.”
And the coaches want to see more consistency in his routes, like making sure on outside routes that when he plants his foot he gets vertical; otherwise the defender will be able to run with him. There’s more, too.
“He’s starting to see the benefits of getting your depth on routes,” McVay said. “If you’re short on a route and you show early, you have separation but the quarterback is not ready to throw and now you’re not part of the progression.”
What stands out: Athleticism. Every so often Reed will make a catch, as he did in college, that reminds you he’s more athletic than most. He had one Monday in which he reached out high and wide on the run to make a grab, which he did in college on a routine basis. But it’s more than just athletic catches. Reed, a former basketball player, creates space with his moves. He’ll use a crossover or rocker move.
“You just do it with your feet and head instead of the ball,” Reed said.
“He has a rare ability to make cuts at full speed and that allows him to separate,” McVay said. “He has a natural body lean where he doesn’t tip his breaks so he controls himself well. He is a natural athlete that has a feel for how to separate. He has instincts and awareness and it shows up.”
Projection: He still looks like the fourth tight end, but one who will help at some point. How early? That’s tough because Reed missed the spring workouts as well as two practices and the first preseason game. He’s still young in his development as a tight end, let alone one in the NFL. But his athleticism suggests he’ll continue to rise. He shows flashes in practice. He’s an intriguing player, but more for what he can do than what he will do immediately.