Ed. Note: Gifs on the way, have patience.
On a team that has several major threats, Jordan Reed stands out as one of the biggest for Washington. Reed threatens both the center and edges of the field with a size and athleticism combination that makes him difficult to cover for any defensive player. Now, with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to pressure the corners and Vernon Davis still showing plenty of speed from the other TE spot, Reed can be a game determining weapon.
Watch here on the first play of last week's game as he lines up split to the right. DeSean Jackson will come in motion to his side.
Reed takes a few quick strides up the field while Jackson heads outside to the flat. Note that Reed draws attention from both the linebacker and a safety (yellow arrows).
Here you can see the linebacker, Ryan Shazier, close on Reed as the safety maintains watch over the top. QB Kirk Cousins is focused on Reed and so the Pittsburgh defense follows suit. Even the deep safety in single high is watching Reed, who is only 6-8 yds deep, and staying put.
Reed gets the ball and spins inside, losing Shazier. This is nice but what happens next is more impressive as three Steelers close on him.
Look how far Reed manages to get upfield before they can collapse on him. This is very nice explosion to have from your TE spot. The Redskins would come back to him three times for 12, 13, and 14 yards on their first drive, and tried to get him the ball a fourth time.
Check this out from another first drive completion. He makes the catch on a poorly thrown ball, turns up field, makes a jump cut, and gets another first down. We've seen Jason Witten make this move, but like Will Smith in "Men in Black", Jordan Reed makes this look good.
Unfortunately for Washington, Kirk Cousins would struggle to get the ball to Reed the rest of the game. Here we see Reed threaten deep from the in-line Y spot. Ryan Shazier (yellow arrow) will cover him again. No, this is not a mistake. He really has that much ground to make up.
Reed runs an inward breaking route while Shazier is dropping into a middle zone. Shazier quickly realizes he has to play catch up here and turns to pursue. Notice that Cousins is already locking on to Reed, correctly anticipating that he will win this matchup.
The ball should be out here. I know it looks like Shazier is in good position, and he has done an admirable job of catching up, but his back is turned. If the ball was underway it would get there before Shazier can turn around and locate it. Anywhere in the large rectangle is a TD. When people talk about QBs anticipating and throwing receivers open, this is what they mean. But Cousins still has his arm down and hasn't started his motion yet.
Here is the throw, nearly a second later. Reed has opened up a bit of a lead but Shazier has stayed close and, more importantly, started to turn so that he can find the football.
Even though Reed has opened some space and the ball is on the way, Shazier has turned back and is locating the ball which is still in flight. With a nice final effort Shazier got his hand on this pass and Washington would kick a field goal here. This play was reminiscent of Jason Witten's touchdown in preseason from Prescott.
But Reed doesn't have to make the play to have an effect. Here he is the in line TE on the offensive left. The play will go to DeSean Jackson (red arrow).
Once again, Reed draws a safety/linebacker double-team straight off the line. You can also see, near Jackson, Vernon Davis still has impressive speed as he takes off deep as well.
As Reed turns inward, the safety goes with him, but the linebacker, who has dropped to cover the very route Reed is running has started to notice that Jackson is running a drag underneath, but before he can stop his backpedal and drive on Jackson's route it will be far too late.
Notice the subtle change in Jackson's route creating a little more space between him and the linebacker. The safety is now beginning to notice and the linebacker has come to a stop, but Jackson is in full stride and neither of them is going to get anywhere near him. The big red rectangle is Jackson's playground.
As Jackson makes the catch, the safety (orange exclamation point) has fully realized how screwed his team is. The red rectangle is awfully big now.
And just to prove it, as the cornerback in his full deep drop comes back up to finally push Jackson out of bounds, we here see the safety who, angle and all, never got anywhere near the play.
So while Reed can make something out of a short dump, defenses have to respect him deep, whether he is getting the ball or not, and that makes the entire Redskins offense better. Combined with Jackson, Vernon Davis, and Pierre Garcon, he gives Kirk Cousins and impressive array of weapons. This game may revolve around which quarterback can pull the trigger on his with the best timing and accuracy.