With Jordan Reed back, Redskins' offense receives needed boost

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed hustled to his spot, planted, pivoted and cut back outside. He then grabbed a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Even though it occurred 25 minutes after practice ended, it’s what the Redskins needed to see: A

healthy Reed getting in extra work on his first day back. And doing so without any issues.

Reed returned to practice Wednesday after being activated from the physically unable to perform list Sunday. He had opened camp on the PUP list because of sprains in his left ankle and big toe. Coach Jay Gruden said he’d like to play Reed in their third preseason game Sunday. The Redskins typically rest their starters in the fourth preseason game.

“It’s important, it’s not critical,” Gruden said of Reed playing Sunday. “I’d like to get him back out there and get in the running game a little bit and obviously catch a couple passes. If he’s not feeling up to it at that time, so be it.”

Reed hasn’t worked a lot with the starting offense this year, having worked out in Florida during the spring voluntary practices. He looked sharp during the two-day June minicamp. But he has played in Gruden’s offense for three seasons and has been Cousins’ primary target for the past two, with 153 catches and 17 touchdowns in that time. The Redskins also have more than two weeks to get ready for the opener.

“Jordan has missed time before and come back and not missed a beat,” Gruden said. “He’s one of those freakish guys that has the luxury of doing that. Not many other people can do that. Still, you’d like a player to get some involvement in a game before you play a real one.”

Reed agrees.

“It’s real important to feel some hits and have live bullets at me, get my feet under me,” Reed said. “I’m pretty confident right now in my toe.”

Ten days ago Reed started wearing a wider cleat and orthotics as he continued to rehab. He said that he has protected his toe enough that he doesn’t feel any pain. He didn’t look limited when running routes, whether during one-on-one work or after practice with Cousins and several other players, including receiver Terrelle Pryor.

“It’s not real easy when you miss time,” Reed said. “But I got some extra work with [Cousins]. Yesterday I got extra work with him. I’ll keep doing that so we’ll be ready for the first game.”

The Redskins’ offense has struggled in the preseason, with three points and no first downs versus the opposition’s No. 1 defense in four series. But Wednesday was the first practice they had all their skill talent available this summer. Key receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson played their first preseason action this past Saturday versus Green Bay.

But Reed remains the focal point of the offense, so his return and readiness for the season opener is pivotal. He provides unique movement skills, Cousins said, and creates matchup issues based on where he’s aligned. He runs well, so placing a linebacker on him makes it tough; he’s bigger than a safety.

“If you want to put your best corner on Jordan Reed, that’s one option,” Cousins said. “But now you’re opening a door for whoever else is out there -- a Josh Doctson, a Terrelle Pryor, a Vernon Davis so on and so forth. We’re always looking for those matchup advantages and they tend to be in Jordan’s favor just because of how uniquely gifted he is. And usually a guy covering him is not the top cover guy on the team.”

The key now, for Reed and the Redskins, is making sure that he stays on the field.