Last week, as the Bills had (somewhat unimpressively) clawed their way to a 16-7 lead in Miami against a charged-up divisional opponent looking to topple the division leaders, they may have discovered just how much No.82 brings to the table.
Over the years, Josh Reed has been much-maligned for his under production. After all, he was the Fred Biletnikoff award winner in 2001. When you are proclaimed the nation's top receiver coming out of college, certainly much is expected.
But not much was seen. Bills fans did not see the numbers you might expect from such an award winner. In fact, the number that might have stood out the most was the number of times he dropped passes. "Don't throw it to Reed," shouted Bills' faithful, "he'll drop it!!!"
And indeed he did.
Still, No.82 persisted on the Buffalo Bills roster. Bills coaches would consistently laud his superior blocking skills. He was an asset to the team's run game. (But, shouldn't a receiver be an asset to the passing game?) They would also say he is a great route runner. (OK, that's a plus for a receiver, but then you have to also catch the ball!!!) Year after year, training camp would come and go and somehow, someway, Josh Reed continued to make the final roster.
But what happened over the last couple years has definitely swung the balance of many Bills fans allegiance in Reed's favor. Reed has become (a name I have dubbed him on the Buffalo Bills Review), Mr. First Down.
When the Bills need a clutch catch, Reed makes it. Reed is the one who gets open, makes the tough grab, fights off the tackles, and gets just enough yards for the first down.
First, he often runs routes that get him open beyond the first down markers—something many receivers do not seem to understand. Second, he makes the catch—something he did not seem to previously understand. And third, he often gains tough yards after the catch to ensure he gets the first down.
Perhaps we saw his importance to the Bills offense somewhat amplified last week when, in the second half after the team lost him to an injury, the offense was seemingly incapable of sustaining drives. Thinking back to games earlier this season, many of the 4th quarter come from behind victories involved multiple catches by Mr. First Down to keep the chains moving.
Reed is not a big play (meaning long yardage) receiver. He doesn't score many touchdowns. But he is an essential part of the Bills offense, and when he misses any time it will take a big effort from his replacements to fill his shoes. I'm not certain James Hardy, Justin Jenkins and all three tight ends can really do that.
They'll get a chance to give it a try this week. Reed has not practiced this week (in fact, he was wearing an immobilizer boot on the ankle with the strained Achilles) and looks very doubtful for the game Sunday.
The once-maligned, under-achieving receiver has become an essential (and greatly missed) piece of the Buffalo Bills offense. Nice job, Josh. You are forever in the mind of this Bills fan...the original...
Mr. First Down.