Kirk Cousins led all quarterbacks with a completion percentage of 69.8 during the 2015 regular season—a feat, which the co-Most Improved NFL Player of the Year would be the first to admit, could not have been accomplished without tight end Jordan Reed.
Aside from missing a pair of games under the league’s concussion protocol, Reed was without a doubt Cousins’ most reliable offensive weapon throughout their shared breakout season. The third-year pro out of the University of Florida amassed more targets (114), yards (952) and touchdowns (11) in 14 games than any other Redskins receiver during his breakout campaign.
Reed’s 952 yards were fourth most among tight ends league wide, while his 11 touchdown catches ranked him tied with the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski for second most at the position. The mammoth campaign, however, didn’t earn him a spot among the original four tight ends—Greg Olsen, Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce—to receive an invitation to the Pro Bowl.
With Olsen playing in the Super Bowl and Gronkowski opting out of the festivities in Hawaii, two tight end spots opened up on either side of the Pro Bowl rosters. Many felt Reed deserved a Pro Bowl spot to begin with. When both he and Cousins were passed as potential Pro Bowl replacement, the word “snub” flooded the D.C. sports lexicon. Gary Barnidge and Delanie Walker, who had great seasons of their own, were selected to fill the two empty roster spots. But was Jordan Reed more deserving?
Obviously, those responsible for the decision felt that he wasn’t, and it’s hard to know what criteria they used in the selection process. Given Reed’s finish in the top four in both receiving yards and touchdowns among tight ends, there is certainly an argument to be made that he was overlooked. Another, less-talked-about statistic lends weight to that argument.
The efficiency with which Reed reeled in passes thrown his way the highest among Redskins receivers, excluding running backs, to be targeted 40-plus times. He caught 87 of 114 footballs intended for him, which amounts to a 76.3 percent rate. Only Jamison Crowder, who caught 75.6 percent of the passes thrown his way, came close to Reed’s mark.
Not only was Reed the most reliable target on the Redskins offense, he was also a notch above all six tight ends to receive a Pro Bowl invitation. This is how he stacks up in comparison: Reed (76.3 percent), Walker (70.7 percent), Eifert (70.3 percent), Kelce (69.9 percent), Barnidge (63.2 percent), Olsen (62.1 percent) and Gronkowski (60 percent).
Granted, this statistic is by no means all encompassing, and it doesn’t mean that Reed dropped the fewest passes of the group--Gronkowski dropped the fewest with one while Reed dropped two. What this metric does attest to, however, is Reed’s uncanny ability to get open as well as his chemistry with Cousins. It means that he not only ran the routes that his quarterback expected him to but that he also ran them well enough to consistently get open. Both of these attributes are crucial ingredients in the making of a great receiving tight end.
Though he’s blossomed into a polished receiver, Reed still has flaws in his overall game. His run blocking and propensity to commit penalties leave much to be desired. He should have, at the very least, been strongly in the running as a Pro Bowl replacement despite these weaknesses, and the word snub may not be much of a stretch.
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.
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