Since the first of the game of the season, rookie tight end Jordan Reed has flashed the potential to be a matchup nightmare for defenses. His role in the Washington Redskins passing attack has been expanding every game, and in Week 7 Reed delivered his breakout performance.
He terrorized the Chicago Bears' ailing defense, making nine catches for 134 yards and scoring his second pro touchdown.
A closer look at Reed's breakout game shows how the Redskins are making maximum use of his hybrid potential and move skills. Five catches show Reed in as many different alignments, set free by the formations and schemes of the Shanahan offense.
The first example comes from the first quarter, with Washington on first down at their own 44-yard line. Reed aligned as a classic in-line tight end. He would run a pattern to challenge safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte.
Reed would execute a quick inside break to beat Wright off the line. Once he reached the middle of the field, behind the linebackers, Reed would break back to the outside, across the face of Conte.
Once the ball was snapped, Reed's speed easily took him beyond Wright. His initial inside break also got Conte turned the wrong way.
Reed had split the safeties and began his break to the outside.
He made the catch for a 38-yard gain.
This was the first of many big plays for Reed against Chicago's safeties. It encouraged the Redskins to find more ways to get him open.
The next method involved using him as a slot receiver. Still in the first quarter, the Redskins faced a 3rd-and-7 at their own 34. They brought Reed across the formation in motion.
He aligned in the slot, inside the outside wide receiver.
The Redskins planned to clear out the coverage by having the wideout run an in-and-out pattern across the cornerback and in front of the deep safety.
Reed would run underneath this route on a quick out.
As the play developed, the wide receiver's route took the cornerback away from the underneath zone and also occupied the deep safety.
That left Reed wide open breaking toward the flat. He made an easy catch and turned back inside for an 11-yard gain.
This was a clear example of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan manipulating coverage specifically to create the space for Reed to make a play.
Shanahan was just as creative down in the red zone during the second quarter. This time the plan was to split Reed out as a wide receiver on 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
Clearly the Bears were not prepared for this, even though Reed scored a touchdown from the same look against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2.
Conte had to come over late and cover Reed one-on-one. This was the ideal mismatch the Redskins wanted to create.
Shanahan used formation to force the mismatch by putting two wide receivers and in-line tight end Logan Paulsen on the other side of the field.
Reed would initially break to the outside, then make a fake inside move, before breaking vertically to the corner of the end zone. It was a triple move that took advantage of Reed's athletic skills and left Conte with no chance.
Reed then simply pulled down the high pass with a nice jumping catch for the score.
This was the kind of play that is possible when an offense possesses a hybrid "move" tight end capable of playing anywhere across a formation.
Reed's movement skills are allowing the Shanahans to get increasingly creative with their play designs. A brilliant example came in the third quarter, with the Redskins facing 2nd-and-9 from their own 33.
Reed would be used as a receiver out of the backfield. Two vertical routes on the outside would create the room for him to work underneath.
Just in front of Reed, Paulsen again aligned as an in-line tight end. He had come across in motion from the other side, starting the process of drawing the defense away from Reed's route.
With Morris running to the left and the backside defenders keying Griffin, Reed crept through the traffic on the other side.
He was open on a screen route and made the catch for another 11-yard gain.
This play showed why Reed is an X-factor in the offense. He can be used to attack from anywhere on any play.
The Shanahans are committing to finding new ways to use his speed and athleticism in the open field.
Reed is rewarding that scheming with his ability to make big plays once he gets the ball in his hands. He did just that on the frantic drive that put the Redskins ahead for good deep into the fourth quarter.
Washington began the drive at their own 25 with just three minutes and 52 seconds left.
Reed lined up as a flex tight end, just detached from the main line.
He would beat his initial coverage with another quick inside break. Reed would then get behind the linebacker level by running a corner route, before slanting back into the middle, in front of the deep safety.
That intricate route, and the speed and precision with which it was run, got Reed wide open in the middle.
Once he caught the pass, Reed used his open-field skills as a runner to make would-be tacklers look foolish. He completed a crucial 26-yard gain.
Five catches featured five different alignments from Reed. They also revealed how the Redskins are steadily getting their rookie tight end in space as the feature of their passing game.
With that kind of emphasis in the scheme, combined with Reed's movement skills, expect many more performances like the one he delivered in Week 7.
All screen shots courtesy of Fox Sports and NFL.com Game Pass.
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