After the jump, I look in detail at footage from Reed's 2013 season to evaluate what he is still capable of bringing to the table.
Who is Ed Reed?
The 5'11" 205-pound Reed, now aged 35, was a two-time all-American at Miami and was a projected first round pick entering the 2002 draft. The Jets held the 22nd pick and desperately needed a safety, but opted instead to draft defensive end Bryan Thomas, whose stock had risen following a terrific performance at the scouting combine. Two picks later, the Baltimore Ravens selected Reed and the rest is history.
Reed is a nine time Pro Bowler with a defensive player of the year award (2004) and a Super Bowl ring (2012). He played 11 seasons with the Ravens but his contract expired at the end of last season. He signed a three year, $15m deal to play with the Houston Texans, but started just five games before he was released earlier this week. Reed underwent hip surgery during the offseason and missed most of training camp and the first two games of the season.
2013 Regular Season
Week 3 - at Baltimore
Reed got the start in Baltimore against his old team with the Texans losing in a blowout. He played most of the game in a deep safety role but was rested down the stretch. There weren't too many throws in his area, but that was partly attributable to them being dissuaded from throwing his way because he was lurking. He picked up a lot of direct coverage assignments, notably around the red zone where he was constantly in position. There was one throw in his direction, where he was in coverage support over by the pylon and closed to hit the receiver as the ball arrived (which was overthrown anyway). He made a couple of tackles, including one as he tracked across the field to force the runner out downfield after a 25-yard run and another downfield after a completed pass, where the receiver dragged him for five extra yards. The most important came as he made a touchdown saving tackle at the 10-yard line, just about getting enough of the receiver to force him to step out as he tried to juke Reed in the open field following a missed tackle by Brice McCain. He was mostly a non-factor in the running game because he was playing deep and not many runs made it to the second level.
Week 4 - Seattle
The Texans threw away the lead against Seattle and lost in overtime. Once again, no throws went in his direction, other than one that was tipped over the middle and just eluded him as he dove for a potential interception. He had three downfield tackles, but one of them was important as he just got enough of Russel Wilson's ankle in the open field to stop him short of the marker on 3rd and long and force a punt in overtime. On one other tackle, he pursued across the field to force the runner out for a six yard gain. He was blocked out of the play and to the ground on this spectacular run by Marshawn Lynch.
Week 5 - at SF
This game stands out because Reed was beaten for this 64-yard touchdown by Vernon Davis, which pretty much constitutes 90% of the case against Ed Reed being not washed up. However, it's pretty evident that this was a blown coverage. DJ Swearinger blitzes, Anquan Boldin runs an out route and Vernon Davis runs a go route. Both cornerbacks on that side (McCain and Kareem Jackson) follow Boldin out into the flat, leaving Davis open down the seam. Reed isn't blameless, because he takes a bad angle and gets beaten to the outside (which likely wouldn't have happened to the old Ed Reed). However, it's a clear blown coverage and Reed was scrambling to cover for someone else's mistake. Other than that play, Reed was in on a few downfield tackles and was blocked out of one running play down the field. There were two plays where he made a positive impact - one where he jumped a route, causing Colin Kaepernick to overthrow his intended receiver and another where he hit the receiver as the ball arrived on a play where Swearinger was responsible for the receiver in zone coverage. The receiver did hang on for a 13-yard gain though. Trailing 21-0 at the half, the Texans only used him on passing downs after half time.
Week 6 - Rams
The Texans held the Rams to 216 total yards in week six, but still somehow lost by 25 points. Reed started, but did not play in the last quarter and a half, as the Texans fell into a 24-6 hole. This was easily his most active game in run support so far, as he was in on a number of tackles, including two where he was in on the tackle in the hole to hold a run to a short gain inside the 10-yard line. PFF actually gave Reed "credit" for two missed tackles, but neither of these were particularly damaging. One came as he helped stack up a runner down the field and then let go of the pile to enable his teammates to finish the job. Another saw him come over from center field after a long pass was completed down the sideline, with the receiver hurdling over his diving tackle attempt, but on his way out of bounds anyway. The Rams actually were brave enough to test the deep middle once, but they picked their moment, doing it on a play where Reed covered the intermediate middle and Danieal Manning ran deep. The pass was overthrown. I would question whether Reed could have reacted better on this play, but I don't think the ultimate receiver was his responsibility.
Week 7 - at KC
Houston lost this one 17-16 to the unbeaten Chiefs. Reed had several negative plays in this one, including a couple of missed tackles and an overpursuit on the edge. He almost blew up two of those plays. There were also two completions for first downs credited as targeted against him, one on a zone play where Anthony Fasano was left alone in zone coverage over the middle and made an 11-yard catch down to the one and another as Jamaal Charles took a dump-off pass underneath and Reed chased him out to the sideline but couldn't prevent him from just making it to the marker ahead of him. He was also fooled on this touchdown run, taken out of a play that went for a 43-yard gain when his own man was blocked into him at the second level and jumped offsides on 3rd and five (although the Chiefs picked up the first down anyway). This was easily his roughest game, although these were mostly minor mistakes. There were a couple of positives - he cut down the lead blocker on a goal line play, forcing the runner to cut back inside where he was stopped and also got upfield on a blitz which prevented Alex Smith from rolling all the way to the right and made the angle for his throw tougher, leading to an interception.
Week 9 - Indianapolis
Against the Colts, Reed did not start and played 32 snaps, mostly on passing downs. The Colts won by three after a late touchdown and then a missed field goal as time expired. Reed had two downfield tackles including one where he had to fight off a block to force Donald Brown out of bounds after a long run. He also made a couple of good plays in coverage, in good position on a play where Andrew Luck threw it at his receiver's feet and closing well on a dump-off underneath to Brown, which was ultimately dropped anyway, but Reed was there to make the tackle. His one negative was an unnecessary roughness call, but this appeared harsh as he hit an upright receiver from behind as the ball arrived to break up a pass.
Week 10 - at Arizona
Reed's final appearance as a Texan saw him play just 13 snaps. Those plays netted just 28 yards, which perhaps bodes well for his chances of making an early impact in a limited role. He was in on an assist on an 11 yard pass completion and also contributed to a turnover when Carson Palmer was looking his way, but hesitated with Reed in good position and was stripped from behind.
(Note: I'm going to try and be as objective as possible, but am fully prepared to make the disclosure that Reed is perhaps my favorite non-Jets player of all time.)
Clearly the Jets aren't getting the Ed Reed of old. However, with his level of experience, scheme familiarity, ball skills and what athleticism he has left, can Reed represent any kind of upgrade for this current Jets roster? At the same time, will the intangibles he brings such as leadership, mentoring the younger defensive backs on the team and the added motivation brought about by his arrival make a positive impact?
On the face of it, you have a bunch of negative plays from a guy playing on a losing team. However, what can't be measured is how often he forced quarterbacks to look elsewhere by being - or just threatening to be - in a position to disrupt a pass in his area. Teams clearly avoided throwing his way and on a snap-by-snap basis, it looked like he picked up the right guy and stayed with him when required and covered ground and reacted well when in center field. Reed would agree with this assessment. "I’ve been saying that the whole year because I’ve been criticized just terribly," Reed told reporters on Thursday. "I only had about four or five balls [this year] in my vicinity, (my) direction." It's not often that you hear about a red zone weapon on defense, but that's a place where what I saw from him stood out as being more reliable than what you'd typically see from this Jets secondary.
The notion that he looks slow out there is nonsense. Maybe he looks slow by his own standards, but he closes to the ball well, covers plenty of ground and changes direction as sharply as most safeties I've watched this year. He's certainly no worse than Dawan Landry and an easy upgrade over Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith in terms of range. If you're a step and a half faster than most safeties in the league and then you lose a step, then you've still got half a step to play with.
Some have suggested that he lost playing time because he was being outplayed by Shiloh Keo, but I don't think that's true either. Keo has twice as many missed tackles as Reed despite a similar number of snaps and was targeted seven times in the last four games with all seven completed for 76 yards. Keo got time because he is young and potentially a part of the Texans future, whereas it was apparent Reed was not.
If there's one negative I could pick out, it's that Reed often appeared to shy away from contact. However, for a deep safety who is often the last line of defense, that could perhaps be excused as playing conservatively and keeping things in front of him rather than risk making a mistake, much like Kerry Rhodes used to do. He did have a few missed tackles downfield, but these did not cost them much yardage, so they didn't come about by him being reckless. He also had a few at the line of scrimmage, which is when a safety might have more of an aggressive mindset in an effort to make a stop.
As many people have said, this deal reminds them of when the Jets claimed Trevor Pryce from the Ravens back in 2010 and Pryce helped propel the Jets into the playoffs. In fact, I'm on record as saying they never would have made it without him. The circumstances are slightly different in that Pryce was released by the Ravens who had every intention of bringing him back, but just needed a roster spot temporarily and didn't expect he'd get claimed. In many ways, the signing has more in common with when the Jets signed Ty Law. No, not the first time, but when they re-signed him out of the blue on November 10th, 2008, at a time when the Jets looked likely to make the postseason. That didn't work out too well, but perhaps this one has a better chance of panning out.
As noted above, I am a big Ed Reed fan, so I am rooting for this to work, but I didn't see it as a move that had to be made. Landry and Antonio Allen were doing a fine job and Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush haven't let anyone down when called upon either. The potential downside of this move is therefore low - unless Reed plays poorly and still gets time over any of the above players.
Ultimately, this should be fun to watch unfold. If Reed's presence dissuades any quarterbacks from throwing in his direction, that plays into the hands of Rex Ryan's defense, perhaps moreso than any other team in the league.
Welcome to the Jets (at long last), Ed!