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Tight end Jordan Reed is Redskins' Jekyll and Hyde

The Redskins tight end is a true difference maker, though his mistakes are troublesome for a team without much margin or error.

Jordan Reed just might be the Redskins best overall athlete and most consistent and productive receiver. Need a third down? Reed’s usually beat someone easily. Need a one-on-one matchup to be won with ease? Jordan Reed is your guy.

Interestingly enough, as good as Reed has been so far this year and really over his career, he’s found himself in the cross-fire of a few very important plays for the Redskins so far in 2015.

We all know the primary issue for the former 2013 draft pick: Staying healthy. The issue remains. He missed all of the off-season program with a minor procedure on his knee and suffered a quad injury before the Week Two meeting with St. Louis. The good news is he hasn’t missed any action. Actually, that news is better than good.

Reed has only played in 23 of 35 possible regular season games in his brief two-plus NFL career, yet he’s damn productive when playing.

In those 23 games, Reed has 114 catches or an average of 4.95 receptions per game along with 1,205 receiving yards or 52.39 yards per game.  He now has four career touchdowns. That includes his score in the season opener, his first TD since November 7, 2013.

Imagine the numbers if the Redskins had more stability at quarterback. Imagine the position potential if last year’s Niles Paul could be combined with a healthy Reed. 

This year, Reed has been Kirk Cousins’ most reliable target with the most catches (19) and most receiving yards (241). Reed should have had touchdown No. 2 Thursday night as he torched rookie Landon Collins along the far sideline, but Cousins' throw was short of the mark. Still the yardage trend is ideal, from 63 to 82 to 96 yards in three games this year.

The yards Reed cost Washington this season are equally memorable. Plays that have not been very good for Washington and have really hurt them. 

Take for instance, on the first series of last Thursday’s loss to the Giants. Reed committed an offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out a Chris Thompson 33-yard wheel route reception. Reed was lined up wide on the same side and in an attempt to rub the trailing defender, he clearly obstructed him. The drive ended moments later. 

“He saw the linebacker coming at him, and when he did he kind of froze, and got a natural pick on the linebacker,” Jay Gruden told reporters Friday. “It looked like it was a planned pick, but it really wasn’t. Jordan could’ve done a little better job, get a little bit more depth.”

Maybe the Redskins lose regardless, but for a team that needs to play from ahead, that first drive stall changed the game especially since the Giants immediately blocked the subsquent punt for a safety.

Facing a 3rd-and-9 before halftime, Cousins was blitzed by Collins who lined up on Reed’s side. Reed ran a 25-yard pattern and Cousins threw one up for grabs while under heavy siege.

I’m not exactly sure what the Redskins rules are in this particular case, but it would seem to me that he could have broken off his route to help his quarterback out. I think that’s a fair criticism, but maybe I am wrong.

Go back to Week One against Miami. Reed was involved in several negative plays that hurt the Redskins. In fairness to the tight end, one appeared to be a bad call by the officials on another offensive pass interference. However, another led to Kirk Cousins' first and worst interception of that particular game.

On what turned out to be the final offensive play for the Redskins, Washington needed to convert a 4th-and-7 play to keep hope alive. The pass from Cousins went Reed's way, but the two were not on the same page. Reed failed to cross the defensive back’s face as Cousins faced heavy fire. The incomplete pass capped the opening game loss. 

“Jordan played well. There’s some plays that Jordan needs to clean up though, without a doubt,” Gruden said after that game.  

“He’s got a chance to be one of the top tight ends in this league if he can continue to play with some consistency and get a little bit better at the point of attack," Gruden continued.

Those comments came after Reed scored the Redskins only touchdown of the game, a play that served as a perfect example of how Washington can use and win with him.

Washington lined up in a 3 x 1 set, with Reed isolated to the left of Cousins. That meant he was getting a 1-on-1 look and it was jump ball/great athlete time and Reed won with ease.

The next week – the Redskins only win so far – Reed was fine as a receiver, but didn’t hit pay dirt. The element that was so impressive about Reed’s day? Blocking. Exactly what his head coach wanted to see out of him.

Reed was part of a heavy commitment to the run game, often lining up in a three tight-end set and paving the way for a 182-yard ground attack.

Oh and don’t forget what Reed did on the final Redskins drive which led to the game-sealing touchdown. Reed ran an option route from Cousins’ left and when he realized it was man coverage, quickly broke inside with Cousins leading him perfectly into the seam of the Rams defense. Reed bounced off a couple of defenders and wound up picking up 29 yards. The play was a 3rd-and-5, in a money spot on a money down.

Which brings us back to the original point. You can criticize Reed for not being able to stay healthy, you can worry about his health moving forward and you can pick on some significant mistakes that Reed has made. 

What you can’t do is find a better weapon for an otherwise inconsistent offense. The Redskins need Reed on the field to win. They also need him to clean up those mistakes.

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Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy. You can find him on Twitter @russellmania621.

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