I really liked Jordan Reed coming out of the University of Florida. Even though he appeared to be raw, he was still productive with a horrid quarterback situation, dangerous with the ball in his hands, and had a huge catch radius. I thought pairing Reed with Fred Davis (back when Davis was still in favor) and giving Robert Griffin III two big tight ends as targets would be a huge step forward.
Likewise, I was thrilled when the Redskins drafted Jordan Reed, but thought that he’d see more spot duty for the Redskins while Fred Davis remained the number one tight end. As good as he was at Florida, he didn’t run a whole lot of different routes and had a simplified route tree. Mainly one that consisted of “get the ball in his hands” and “let him do the work”.
After some promising performances in his first 5 games, and especially after his performance in Week 7, I’ve come to a scientifically proven conclusion; Jordan Reed can not be covered by anyone. It’s a trend. It started in Week 1, and then culminated with his break out 9 catch, 134 yard and 1 touchdown game. Let me show you some examples.
On first down, J.R is going to be lined up in-line, running a post corner route versus man coverage. Number 21 has the unlucky task of trying to cover him one on one.
The play was a play action bootleg. A post-corner route is a long developing route, but the boot gives J.R ample time to get open. Not that he needed it, as he’s already open on the post route, having already left Major Wright in the dust.
The sync between Robert Griffin III and J.R already, given that neither of them had a full offseason, is crazy. Robert starts his throw just as Reed breaks back to the corner, at which point Wright is already hopelessly lost.
Robert throws this ball from the far hash, back across down field, and puts the ball in about as perfect position as you can. JR catches this with room to spare to get up field, though (if we’re being honest) he did fumble on the play. Luckily, hurrying up meant that the pass wasn’t up for review.
On his next catch, Reed is again lined up in-line. He’s going to pretty simple hitch route versus a nickel cover 2 set.
J.R runs his route and finds a nice little hole in the zone between the two linebackers…
Rob puts the ball on his upfield shoulder, which allows J.R to turn up field and gain more yards after the catch. Rob’s arm also beats the linebacker, who tried to under cut the throw.
Kyle Shanahan started to get creative about where he lined up Reed on the field and how he got him open. He takes a page out of the old Joe Gibbs playbook by shifting J.R into the backfield as an H-Back. Hankerson (at the top of the screen) runs a simple hitch, while Moss runs a deep seam route and Aldrick Robinson runs a deep post, which clears out space for JR underneath, versus a Cover 3 shell.
It lives J.R one-on-on with Lance Briggs on the out route. Here you see his huge catch radius. Robert puts this ball outside and trusts that Reed will catch it; and he does. Robert throws Reed open, and then Reed is able to get more YAC after that. This kind of catch, while simple looking, is the kind of catch you wish you’d see someone with an equally large catch radius — Hank — with more regularity. Reed is a big receiving target that plays big.
Reed starts in-line, and then motions out into the right slot. The Bears completely bust this coverage, leaving Charles Tillman with the incredibly unfair task of having to cover two receivers in his area at once.
Reed runs an out and then in. Once again, the sync between Griff and Reed is crazy, as the ball is out just as JR gets out his break. Reed gets a little hip pointer here, but luckily was able to come back in the game.
Reed is technically “in-line” here, but he’s standing up. The Bears are playing press on the receivers, but will blitz the linebacker. That leaves Chris Conte, who’s playing deep, in man coverage with Reed. This goes about as well as you’d expect.
This isn’t really a criticism of RG3 as much as it’s a minor coaching point. Namely, that if everyone is set and the bears are dumb enough to leave Reed wide open like this, if it’s possible, you should quick snap the ball and let Reed walk into the end zone. But it didn’t end up mattering. Conte runs out late to cover Reed…
This fade route was one of the best throws I’ve seen Robert Griffin III make, and one of the best catches I’ve seen any Redskins receiver make. Reed isn’t afraid to take a shot, gets his hands high over his head, and then makes a beautiful catch.
In the second half, it seemed like they were going away from Reed. He got a shot at half time to alleviate some of the pain in his hip, and the run game started working better (check out UkRedskin1′s excellent breakdown of the run game here). But he still got his touches, and still made the best of his opportunities.
This is a double tight end set. JR is lined up as the “wingback” behind Logan Paulsen, who motions from the right in-line position to the left.; another effort to hide him.
This play is designed to look like a typical zone stretch play. The entire line is going to block down to the left, and Robert is going to fake to Morris. JR is going to leak back across the formation. #50 is left to have coverage on him, but he’s going to play the run.
RG3 takes a shot on the play, but still gets the ball off. And once again, Reed is wide open. Kyle Shanahan took a lot of guff during the game, but it really can’t be overstated how good a job he did scheming Reed open and adjusting to what the defense was doing. This is how you get the ball in your playmakers hands and make things open up elsewhere.
These last plays came on RG3′s game winning drive. J.R is lined up in the slot, and Major Wright has the unpleasant task of trying to cover Reed in press man coverage.
What I can’t show you with a still shot is how, after beating Wright off the line, Reed gives Wright a little head not to the outside. Wright completely bought it, which created even more separation. Another great ball by Robert, and this becomes a huge gain of 26. To be a 23-year-old rookie and show that kind of veteran savvy with the route running is incredible.
Reed had one more huge catch, and it was probably the prettiest route I’ve seen any tight end run in a long time. Conte gets the unfortunate task of having to cover Reed in one on one man coverage again.
The Redskins run a little bit of a LEGAL) pick play with Garçon running a corner route. Reed, meanwhile is going to run the out, which gives Conte to drive on it…
He then sticks his foot in the ground, plants and runs the post. You have to watch the live game footage to see the route. The only way to accurately describe it was beautiful. A beautiful route at a crucial time, in a must win game. I wish he had scored a touchdown on it, because after the work he put in, he deserved it.
The kid can’t be covered. Or at least he hasn’t shown that he can be covered yet. I don’t know if it’ll always go that way for him, but if he can continue on this path, and Kyle Shanahan can continue to find ways to get him the ball in space, that’s one more weapon for RG3, and hopefully, one more way to get the season back on track.
If he can stay healthy and productive, the future is bright for the kid and the Redskins.