Is This the End for Ed Reed?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst INovember 8, 2013

Sep 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Houston Texans safety Ed Reed (20) walks off the field prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Reed is a first-ballot Hall of Fame safety, but Father Time is catching up to him in Houston with the Texans

After 524 tackles, 61 interceptions, nine defensive touchdowns and eight All-Pro selections with the Baltimore Ravens, Texans general manager Rick Smith believed Reed, arguably the most dynamic ball hawk in NFL history, was the final piece to the puzzle, the guy who'd elevate Houston to Super Bowl-caliber.

But a serious, nagging hip injury later, and the 35-year-old defensive back has reportedly been "demoted" to a situational role. 

Ed Reed demoted from Texans' lineup: Veteran safety came off bench against Colts, not likely to start vs. Cardinals.

— NationalFootballPost (@FootballPost) November 8, 2013

Interim head coach and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tried to make light of the team utilizing Reed in only certain, sub-package situations, per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:

Asked if Reed is still a starter, Phillips was non-committal. He said Reed’s activity depends upon how offenses are set up and it doesn’t matter whether he takes the field on the Texans’ first defensive play or comes in later during a series.

“Whether the sixth man or the starter or not, it’s just like a lot of other positions, it depends on what the offense comes out in in the first series or so,” Phillips said. “Sometimes they come out in four-wide and so-and-so isn’t in there and you say, ‘He’s not a starter,’ and vice versa. It’s really dictated by our packages and what we do as to who’s actually playing the first play of the game.”

Phillips makes a good point. With the amount of substitution that occurs throughout the course of a typical NFL game today, the "starter" distinction doesn't carry nearly as much weight as it used to. 

Then again, Reed is simply not as impactful as he once was. Not even close. 

Having appeared in six games with his new team this season, the 2004 Defensive Player of Year has 14 tackles and no interceptions. 

Heading into Week 10, Reed has earned a minus-6.5 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which ranks 74th out of 87 safeties who've been on the field for at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps. 

Reed wouldn't be the only former elite player who took on less responsibility in the twilight of his career, that's for sure. 

Sep 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) is congratulated by free safety Ed Reed (20) after making an interception during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Reliant Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

But his disappointing season begs the question: How much longer can the Texans afford to have him on the field? 

As it currently stands, Houston's 2013 campaign is all but officially over. 

Sure, Case Keenum has injected life into the offense, and overall the defense has played well this year, but the 2-6 Texans would need an assortment of mini miracles to sneak into the playoffs. 

With nothing to lose from this point forward, there's really no reason for the Texans to completely bench Reed, whom they signed to a three-year, $15 million deal with $3 million guaranteed in March. 

Really, it'd be surprising if Reed was eventually phased out of the defensive game plan to the point where he wasn't on the field at all. 

However, he did play only 32 of a possible 62 snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9. Safety Shiloh Keo saw 49 snaps, and rookie D.J. Swearinger played every defensive snap, per PFF

That could be a sign of what's to come for Reed. 

But just because he's technically Houston's third safety, it doesn't mean he's totally worthless or that it's all over.

It does indicate that, slowly but surely, the legendary Ed Reed is approaching the beginning of the end of his illustrious NFL career.