Breaking Down Why the NFL Should Still Fear Ed Reed

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Breaking Down Why the NFL Should Still Fear Ed Reed
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As is the case with just about every NFL player nearing his 35th birthday, Ed Reed is past his prime, but that doesn't mean his intimidation factor has dissipated. 

It certainly still exists. 

According to CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora, Reed has agreed to terms with the Houston Texans, although the deal has yet to be made official by the team.

Reed finished the 2012 regular season with 58 combined tackles, his highest total since 2006, when he accumulated 60 takedowns

He also reeled in four interceptions. 

Going beyond the elementary tackle statistics and interception numbers, ProFootballFocus (subscription required) rated Reed as a top-20 coverage safety last season, despite overwhelming criticism that Reed was no longer a stalwart in that phase of the game.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Let's break down why this future Hall of Fame safety should still strike fear into his opponents, especially quarterbacks.

Reed missed more tackles in 2012 than normal, but he has always made his greatest impact as an instinctive ball hawk whose anticipation skills lead to game-changing interceptions.

Though his burst in and out of breaks no longer matches his quick decision-making skills, Reed can still cover ground when he's locked on to the football. 

At the late stages of a Week 9 game against the Cleveland Browns, Reed demonstrated his legendary closing speed that, surprisingly, is still quite impressive. 

At the snap, Reed followed quarterback Brandon Weeden's eyes to the middle of the field from his initial spot as the right deep safety. 

As Weeden scanned that side of the field and couldn't find an open receiver, he panicked and attempted to leave the pocket while looking for Travis Benjamin down the left sideline. 

After Cary Williams released Benjamin in this Cover 2 look, Reed was about 20 yards away from the wideout in the middle of the field, facing the wrong direction, with all of his momentum taking him toward the other sideline. 

Weeden stumbled, but saw no defender near Benjamin as he released the pass. 

Reed quickly stopped and pivoted and took the perfect angle to meet the ball before it could get to the receiver. 

It was almost as if Reed knew precisely where Benjamin was behind his back.

Sure, the pass was slightly underthrown, but even if it were on the money, Reed would have been there to knock it down. 

As usual, Reed not only got into the right position swiftly, but he also finished the play, making an interception that showcased his amazing body control and ball skills. 

He is somewhat of a freelancer, which occasionally gets him into trouble, but it's also what helps him make huge plays out of nowhere. 

Also, even when Reed wasn't intercepting passes in 2012, he was making plays on the football that resulted in incompletions

Here's a look at how Reed compared to some of the top safeties in the game based on passes defended and other critical coverage statistics:

Name Targets QB Rating Vs. Completion % Passes Defended
Eric Berry 63 107.2  63.5
Ed Reed 32 86.1 59.4 7
Glover Quin 65 95.9 55.4 7
Mark Barron 48 114.1  64.6 7

Make what you want of that table, but to me it clearly illustrates that although Reed wasn't thrown at as often, he still made as much of an impact as the other three safeties. 

However, Reed's presence in Houston goes far beyond the quantifiable. 

His fiery leadership skills, ridiculously productive resume and reputation as one of the most dangerous safeties of all time should bring a frightening aspect to the Texans secondary that simply wasn't there in 2012. 

Ed Reed isn't the total game-changer he was in the 2000s, but he undoubtedly should still be feared as the last line of defense in Houston's defense. 

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