Rob Gronkowski is widely accepted as the best tight end in the NFL, and for good reason. His knowledge of the Patriots offense is there, but his size, route running, and strength make him unstoppable. He’s one of the greatest playmakers in NFL history for these reasons.
When comparing tight ends to Gronk, we often ask who the 2nd best tight end in the league is. This often changes season by season, with stars either suffering injuries, down years, or overall inconsistent play. There’s plenty of quality TEs in the league, but which one ranks up just behind Gronk?
As of this writing, that player is Redskins star TE Joran Reed. In recent news, Reed was revealed to have suffered his fifth concussion of his NFL career. With a player as gifted as him, it would be brutal to see that incredible talent go to waste.
After all, that talent was only fully realized in 2015, where Reed broke out and became a superstar. He caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdown catches, including 5 in his last 4 games. So far, Reed is the leading receiver for the Redskins, with 316 yards and 2 touchdowns through 5 games.
It should come to no surprise then when I say Reed is the heart and soul of the Washington Redskins offense, which is a tall honor considering the receiving core is loaded (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and rookie Josh Doctson). As I’ll illustrate with the usual GIFs, Reed’s athleticism is much needed for this team.
Reed exploded with his athleticism in 2015 after finally staying healthy for a year. These 3 plays show off who he is. As a receiver, he is a freak, capable of breaking defender’s ankles and running great routes. On the last GIF, Reed breaks the ankles of the same defender on the same play twice thanks to his route running skills, and the first 2 GIFs show off his strength. The best tight ends combine skillful route running with aggressive running after the catch, and Reed is no slouch there. His ability to break tackles is not at the same level Gronk’s is, but it is pretty damn close.
In 2016, Reed proved his breakout year was not a fluke and has continued to be a stud, becoming the fastest tight end to catch 200 passes in NFL history in the process.
Unfortunately, Reed plays with a bad quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who is in a contract year. Cousins had a Pro Bowl-esque year in 2015, but that was really because the scheme he was in and the receivers surrounding him allowed him to cash in on easy years, in addition to the margin for error and defenses failing to take advantage of his mistakes. This season he hasn’t been as lucky, yet Reed and company continue to bail him out. He has limited field vision, bad pocket presence, limited arm strength, and overall bad accuracy (though he does hit the occasional dime downfield).
In the GIF above, Cousins checks down to Reed from a clean pocket on 3rd and 10, well short of the sticks. Reed bails out the inaccurate low throw and Cousins’ decision by juking one defender and bursting past the first down marker.
Cousins continued to show off his poor pocket presence in the GIF above. Here, Reed is open from the get go, but Cousins fires late and the pass is not fast enough to reach Reed. A good quarterback would be able to zip it right in and on time to the tight end, but this one results in an incomplete pass.
As aforementioned, Reed is able to provide Cousins with a great margin for error (though let’s be real; Jackson, Garcon, Crowder, and Doctson all do the same). Cousins knows he can simply fire in the area of his TE and let him do the rest. Reed runs a great route in the first GIF, pushing off the corner and getting himself open to make a nice catch. In the 2nd GIF, Reed is open, but Cousins’ pass is still high. The inaccurate pass prevents Reed from grabbing YAC, but he makes a very impressive catch nonetheless. In the 3rd GIF, Reed notices Cousins rolling out of the pocket and gets himself open before hurdling over a defender for a nice play.
But the play below is the best I’ve seen from #86, and considering the quality of his play, this is saying a lot.
On 3rd down, Cousins not only fires short of the sticks to Reed, but the pass is way behind him. Amazingly, however, Reed makes the one-handed catch on the adjustment, then fakes out and bulldozes past three defenders to grab the first down, completely bailing out his quarterback in the process. It’s an amazing play that sums up who the tight end is in general; an accuracy erasing freak with the ability to elude and ram his way past defenders.
It’s also strikingly similar to the bailout catch he made in the playoff game against the Packers last year.
Need I say more?
It really sucks that a player as gifted and natural as Jordan Reed has had his injury and concussion history. Without him, the Redskins offense would still have plenty of quality receivers, but the margin of error for the quarterback would lessen because the gameplan would be easier for defenses to manage. With Reed on the field, the Redskins would be an unstoppable force with a quality quarterback behind the line.
Reed’s strength, adjustment at the catch point, footwork, and intelligence make him the 2nd best tight end in the league. Jay Gruden’s scheme is very QB friendly, but it is also receiver friendly, and allows Reed to thrive with his explosive play. He is so much fun to watch, and is on a team that would hurt without him because of how effective his presence alone is.
The Redskins need Reed healthy. He is the heart and soul of their offense.
(Featured image via todayspigskin.com)