CHICAGO -- Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams made a simple declaration. He had just watched tight end Jordan Reed tear up the Chicago Bears' defense. After having watched Reed do that to a number of other teams this season.
“I don’t know anybody who can guard that young man,” Williams said. “When he’s on, he’s on and it’s tough to stop. He’s the best receiving tight end in the NFL hands down.”
As Reed was talking to the media, quarterback Colt McCoy interrupted to let everyone know, “This guy’s un-guardable.”
He’s not far off, just based on what he’s done this season -- and what he did Sunday in particular. Reed caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win against Chicago. In two career games vs. Chicago he’s caught a combined 18 passes for 254 yards and two scores.
“I felt I had some matchup problems and I took advantage,” Reed said.
The Redskins like him vs. man coverage because of his ability to create separation. And they like that reading zones and finding soft spots.
“He’s a problem for a lot of people,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s a friendly target.”
Reed provides quarterback Kirk Cousins with a security blanket who can provide big plays. That’s why Cousins threw a ball up for grabs to Reed in the fourth quarter. Reed tipped the ball in traffic and running back Matt Jones ended up with the reception. But the point is this: Cousins trusted Reed in traffic.
But that’s no surprise as Cousins has a 116.3 passer rating throwing to Reed this season. Cousins has targeted Reed 91 times this season, two more than any other receiver -- and Reed has only played 11 games.
“You watch his play, he hasn’t been stopped,” Williams said. “He’s been the key every game we’ve won -- it’s because of him or he kept drives alive on third down. He’s a huge red zone threat. He’s dangerous after he catches the ball. I haven’t seen a better receiving tight end.”
The knock on Reed always has been durability. But he’s played 11 games this season and the results have been good: 67 catches, seven touchdowns.
Reed’s touchdown Sunday included a slight adjustment from him. On the play, in which he runs a crosser from wide to the left, he was supposed to run in front of the linebacker. But had he done so, Reed would probably wouldn’t have scored. Because it was third and goal from the 5, Reed needed to get into the end zone. So he went behind the linebacker -- and right in front of another.
“All week long in practice, coaches were talking about that route and how I needed to keep running,” Reed said. “I can’t stop short because it’s a longer developing play. ... It worked out and Kirk threw a perfect pass.”
Reed has excelled in part because of past skills. He once was a high school basketball standout, allowing him to use moves he once saved for the hardcourt on the football field. So he’ll use the same footwork on certain routes that he used to save for crossovers in basketball.
But he’s also a former quarterback, having entered Florida to play the position.
“Pre-snap I try to figure out what coverages there will be and that helps me find out who’s guarding me and the leverage they have,” Reed said, “so I can give them a little move to get open.”
Reed was a focal point after the game, with players marveling at his day. As he spoke, another player walked behind a group of reporters and said, “Pay the man!” Reed has plenty to do to become a better blocker, but as a receiving threat his teammates have let him know where they think he stands.
“It feels good that they appreciate what I’m doing on the field and the hard work is paying off,” Reed said. “I feel good that they respect me.”