Why Jordan Reed Is Critical to the Redskins' Success in 2014

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Why Jordan Reed Is Critical to the Redskins' Success in 2014
Tim Sharp/Associated Press

Leave them wanting more. That was Redskins tight end Jordan Reed's rookie season in a nutshell.

It's rare to find a diamond among the rough of a 3-13 season, but the third-round draft pick from Florida provided just enough glimmer last season to get noticed.

In 2014, it's time to shine.

Last Tuesday, ESPN.com's John Keim broke down the 23-year-old's rookie season—and there’s very little not to like, starting with his work ethic:

Reed consistently stayed after practice to work on his game; after being drafted he hit the weights hard, and that helped him improve as a blocker. He understands what he must work on to improve. I list those things first because it’s why the kid has a chance to be good for a long time.

Reed's presence on the field was perhaps the main contributor to Robert Griffin III's improved play in the middle of the 2013 season. In just nine games played, four as a starter, Reed caught 45 balls for 499 yards and three touchdowns. 

His breakout game came in a 45-41 win over the Bears in Week 7. Reed hauled in nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. A concussion ultimately sidelined his season in Week 11 vs. Philadelphia.

While the offensive line deserved its fair share of criticism for the beating that Griffin took down the stretch, Reed's absence was equally to blame.

Reed was the consummate security blanket for Griffin. The two young stars had quickly built up a chemistry that was on the verge of becoming special. 

When Reed went down, he left a massive void at the tight end position. Logan Paulsen and Fred Davis could only muster a total of 19 catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns during the last six weeks of the season. 

Though the sample-size of production is small, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Reed as the NFL's fifth best tight end in 2013: 

Top Tight Ends in 2013 (min. 25% snaps)
# Name Team Snaps Receiving Grade Overall Grade
1 Jimmy Graham NO 774 19.8 13.4
2 Rob Gronkowski NE 390 12.9 12.4
3 Jason Witten DAL 1012 5.6 11.9
4 Ben Hartsock CAR 324 -1.3 11.7
5 Jordan Reed WAS 383 5.9 10.3

Pro Football Focus

Learn about PFF's grading

New Redskins head coach Jay Gruden knows how to utilize the tight end. Last season, the Bengals' Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined to catch 85 balls for 903 yards and six touchdowns in Gruden's offense. 

It’s also worth noting that new Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay was Reed’s position coach last season. According to Keim, McVay naturally “loves Reed.”

As for the concussion, ESPN 980's Chris Russell reported that Reed is feeling good and will start his training in South Florida:

This offseason free agents and draft picks will be added to an already promising offense, but a healthy Reed may decide how far the Redskins actually go in 2014.

As Gruden works to make Robert Griffin III a more complete quarterback, he'll quickly realize that, while the read-option is great, sustained success will come by running more Reed-option.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

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