Pain led to gain for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and his new favorite target.
Jordan Reed, who was recruited to the University of Florida in 2009 to be Tim Tebow’s replacement, has been playing tight end for a little more than two years. You wouldn’t be able to tell by watching him when the Redskins line up Sunday against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m. ET on FOX).
Reed’s athleticism allows him to create separation in his routes and he also has quickly grasped Kyle Shanahan’s offense. With the production, Reed has assumed a majority of the snaps and has developed a natural chemistry with Griffin.
He credits that to getting a head start in OTAs.
"We were both injured so we had a chance to throw it with each other a lot," Reed told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. "I think he has confidence in me, seeing me catch the ball and run routes. He would make throws in practice and I would make the catch for him. Things like that build his confidence in me and I have the ability to make plays for him."
A lingering thigh injury prevented Reed from practicing in May, and that’s when he built the foundation for the relationship with the Redskins’ second-year quarterback, who was recovering from a torn ACL.
Reed, the NFL’s rookie leader in in receptions, benefits from having experience at the quarterback position from his collegiate and high school days.
"It definitely helps me," Reed said. "I can read the coverage while I’m running my routes. I can see where the holes are presnap and it helps me reading the field. It all goes back to my quarterback days."
Then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer featured Reed as the Wildcat quarterback and split his snaps with John Brantley and Trey Burton.
Reed recounts a conversation in 2010 with incoming offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who preferred he continue to take snaps under center. When Weis asked what Reed would rather do, the redshirt sophomore told him he wanted to play tight end.
"At first he was hesitant about it," Reed said of Weis. "But I just started working with the tight ends and he saw me get better."
Over time, Reed would be a productive player for the Gators.
The Redskins spent a third-round pick on him in April and Reed has taken each opportunity to get better.
After every practice he spends extra time with Redskins tight ends coach Sean McVay, fine-tuning his routes and footwork. Ask any rookie what the most difficult part of making the leap from college into the NFL and you’ll typically get an answer like, "The speed of the game and the game being a business."
Reed was thoughtful in his response and quipped, "On defense they disguise a lot better than college. There’s a lot more thinking in the game than in college. It’s just knowing if it’s zone coverage or man coverage. Things like that, it’s a subtle difference from college to the NFL."
Being a great tight end is also flourishing in the running game, something he takes pride in. Reed credits work ethic as the big part of the reason to his instant success.
"It’s obvious how good he is in the passing game, but he’s good in every aspect," Shanahan said via ESPN.com last week. "He doesn’t flinch. He fights for yards when he has the ball in his hand as a carrier. He does everything we ask him, blocking situations, whether we’re using him as tight end or as a fullback on some of those insert looks, he does everything we ask him to do and he enjoys doing it."
Reed notes that Shanahan is "very encouraging" and lets the players know they have a good team, it just comes down to execution on Sundays.
While other notable rookies like Packers running back Eddie Lacy, Bengals running back Giovani Bernard and Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen get most of the recognition for offensive rookie of the year, a solid second half to the season could position Reed in that conversation.
"That’s a goal of mine," Reed said. "It’s in the back of my head so I don’t think about it too much but it’s one of my short-term goals. If I was able to accomplish that, that would be great but how hard I work already is allowing me to have a good season."