The Blocking Development of Jordan Reed

The 0-1 Washington Football Club faced another premier defensive group in the St. Louis Rams in Week 2. Tight end Jordan Reed not only led the team in receiving Sunday, but stepped up as a blocker. Philip Kibbey reviewed the film and sees that Reed excelled at getting to the second level to take on defensive backs, as well as staying home and blocking rushers on the line.

Washington’s young, oft-injured tight end, Jordan Reed, is an athletic tight end who excels in the open field; however, one of his weaknesses at draft time was his blocking ability, likely because of his inexperience at the position. Reed, who attended the University of Florida, was recruited as a quarterback, played his redshirt freshman year as a hybrid wide receiver/running back and only became a tight end as a sophomore.

Through two seasons in the NFL his blocking has often been considered a liability. Because of this, Washington has used Logan Paulsen as a blocking tight end to complement both Reed and their other tight end, Niles Paul. But with Paulsen and Paul lost to injury in the preseason, Washington must rely on Reed to perform in a more complete role.

Coming into Week 2, Washington needed a win. However, they were facing one of the best young defenses in the league and needed help from Reed in the blocking department: to fend off pass rushers, keep quarterback Kirk Cousins upright, and to open up lanes for Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones in the run game. Based on the film from Washington’s impressive victory, Reed delivered.

With Washington leading 10-0 in the second quarter and driving into St. Louis territory, the offense lines up in 12 offensive personnel, with Jones lined up as a single tailback. Reed is lined up on the right side of the line, in a three point stance. The Rams counter with their base 4-2-5 defense playing in off man coverage:

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Washington runs an off-tackle play to the right. At the snap, Reed bursts off the line into the second level to protect the outside rushing lane for Jones. He connects with strong safety Mark Barron and uses perfect hand placement to drive up and into the shoulders of the safety, gaining leverage and pushing him backward and out of the play.

Reed’s block, combined with the blocking assistance from wide receiver Ryan Grant, creates a lane for Jones to burst through for a 25-yard gain. Reed shows decisiveness in finding the safety, uses his hands well, and uses excellent technique to drive Barron away from Jones.

On this next play, Reed flashes a combination of his ability. He first executes a chop block, and then immediately recognizes the situation and gets open as a receiver for his scrambling quarterback. Washington lines up in 12 personnel in a two TE wing formation, and Reed motions to the opposite side of the field across from DE Robert Quinn, who is lined up in wide 9 technique:

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At the snap, Reed immediately executes a chop block, hitting Quinn in the upper leg, sending the defensive end flying. Meanwhile, Cousins rolls out on a designed bootleg to the left looking for WR Andre Roberts or TE Anthony McCoy who is running a crossing route from right to left.

After laying his block, Reed – on the ground – sees his QB struggling to find someone open. He quickly gets up and heads downfield. Cousins sees him at the last second, and connects for 8 yards and a first down. Reed’s block is crucial as all three linebackers crash down on the fake run. If he doesn’t put the dangerous Quinn on the ground, there is a good chance Cousins takes a sack, or has to throw the ball away. Secondly, after the block, Reed displays great situational awareness to get up and make himself available as an outlet for the QB.

Late in the game, Reed again showed his ability to remove defenders from the play, this time in the red zone. Washington is driving late in the game to take a two-score lead. Lining up in 13 personnel, Washington overloads the left side of the line with three tight ends in a jumbo formation, with Reed lined up as the outermost player on the left side. Jones is called upon to follow the pulling LG around the tight ends, who are working to seal off any player coming from the middle of the field. The Rams counter with a 4-3 look, with the weakside linebacker showing blitz at the line. Strong safety T.J. McDonald creeps toward the line, anticipating a run:

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At the snap, Reed identifies McDonald as his man and blocks his outside shoulder, pushing him back and away from the play. This seals the outside for LG Shawn Lauvao to lead Jones for a 9-yard gain to the St. Louis 4. If Reed misses his block, McDonald could easily blow up the play for a short gain. Further, Reed shows good form on the block by attacking the left shoulder, which pushes the safety away from the play and does not give McDonald leverage to wiggle free.

While Reed had a great game receiving hauling in six catches for a team-leading 82 yards his most impressive work was in the blocking game, showing good technique and recognition. Without DeSean Jackson, Washington will rely on the ground game more, so Reed’s progression as a blocker is a welcome development for Washington.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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