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Extra Practice Paying Off For Jordan Reed

The rookie tight end, drafted in the third round in April, has seen modest playing time over the Redskins’ first two games – more so, in fact, than other tight ends.


ASHBURN – Jordan Reed positioned himself directly in front of a machine for 15 minutes Thursday afternoon, long after his teammates had left the practice field, balls thwacking between the large rubber rotors and popping into his gloved hands.


Reed typically doesn’t mind the extra work. His post-practice sessions trace back to when he was a high school quarterback, when he’d work on his footwork and run up a nearby hill for conditioning.

But Thursday, with the Redskins having gone through a two-hour practice in full pads, the additional time on the field was a little agitating.

“Sometimes I don’t want to,” Reed said, pausing to take a breath as beads of sweat rolled down his face. “But my coaches, they’re making me.”

Reed conceded that the payoff from the extra time on the field has worked in his favor. The tight end has caught eight passes in the Redskins’ first two games, tied for second on the team, and also had his first touchdown reception, a three-yard grab, on Sunday.

But more telling is the frequency in which Reed has been on the field. He played 29 snaps in the loss to the Packers – more than Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen or Niles Paul, the other three tight ends on the roster – and his 54 snaps in the first two games is only 10 fewer than Davis.

In fact, Davis only played 16 snaps against the Packers, and five in the second half, which he believed was because of missed blocking assignments in the running game.

Mike Shanahan wouldn’t confirm Davis’ theory when asked Thursday, but said “if he did, it surely doesn’t help.”

“It was a surprise, and it’s kind of frustrating, definitely, when you want to help out and you’re not winning,” Davis said. “But that’s what happens. I just have to roll with the punches.”

Davis’ playing time figured to take a slight hit when the Redskins drafted Reed in the third round in April. Shanahan noted at the time that they selected Reed despite not having a need at the position because they had him ranked as the best available pass-catching tight end in the draft.

It was expected Reed would take his lumps, especially as a player who had converted to the position during college. Even in training camp practices he struggled as a receiver, making even the most routine passes look like an adventure.

That has changed as the regular season began. The touchdown reception came on a ball thrown behind him on a crossing route with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Later, Reed pulled in a ball that was thrown a shade too high, making a grab in the red zone for a four-yard gain.

It was another demonstration of the athleticism that the coaching staff has grown to value.

“I think he’s just playing faster,” said Paul, who has played just one snap on offense this season. “He’s starting to pick up the whole offense. You really struggle when you don’t understand the whole offense, and you really don’t know what you have to run or what you have to do on certain plays. I think he’s trying to pick up everything.”

Davis, who returned to the Redskins on a one-year, $2.5 million contract in April, said it would have been easier to tolerate the shift if the team had won, and not lost, both games. Plus, it’s too early to read into whether the opportunity given to Reed in the second half was anything more than trying to find something that works.

“It’s something that will be week-to-week, game-to-game,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “As the game went on, we felt we had a better chance with Jordan there in the second half.”

Reed, for his part, said he didn’t know of any kind of intentional shift during the game, related to any potential errors Davis made or not.

“I feel like we’ve got some very talented players at tight end – Fred, Logan, Niles, me – and I think we’ll keep working out here and figure out how to get us all involved,” Reed said.

A version of this story appears in Friday’s edition of The Free Lance-Star.