Ed Reed: Expectations with the New York Jets

Ed Reed: nine time Pro Bowler; eight time all pro; 2004 Defensive Player of the year; sixty-one career interceptions, including a record nine in the post season and a pick six in last year’s Super Bowl; undoubtedly, a future Hall of Famer. Quite the resume. His past pedigree aside, what can Ed Reed bring to the 2013 New York Jets?

Honest Perspective:

Now 35 years young and a true grey beard, Ed Reed is no longer the menace he once was. Reed has clearly lost a step. His pursuit speed and mobility have faltered, in part due to off season hip surgery. He was never a punishing tackler and should not be relied on in that regard. However…

Its All in the Noggin:

I am not alone in my belief that Ed Reed may be the most instinctive defensive back of all time. Much of his success over his highly decorated career is due to unparalleled play recognition and field awareness. Reed can masterfully anticipate a route, read the quarterback’s eyes, undercut the throw, and make a play on the ball. He is a ball hawk to the core. As the years take their toll on his physical abilities, Reed continues to prove his worth. Instincts and awareness are the aging free safety’s best friend.

Not convinced? Look at Charles Woodson or Darren Sharper. Woodson, even at 34 years old, was a vital cog in the Packers most recent championship run. Similarly, Sharper joined the Saints at the age of 34 and finished the year with nine interceptions, three for touchdowns, a trip to the Pro Bowl, and a Super Bowl ring.

Reed’s Role:

The Jets currently have the 24th ranked pass defense (254.1 yards per game). Besides the Bengals outlier that dramatically affects these statistics, there are many reasons for the Jets inability to stop the pass. Antonio Cromartie’s recent struggles are well documented, Dee Milliner has been slow to adapt to the pro game, and the Jets have lacked a true free safety. Enter Ed Reed.

Antonio Allen has risen above the competition. Solid tackling, good instincts, and improved man coverage have solidified Allen’s place on the team. Dawan Landry has been stout against the run and as the quarterback of the secondary. Jaiquawn Jarret and Josh Bush are solid role players and special teamers but leave much to be desired. The Jets have been running a variety of three safety looks this season and even a diminished Ed Reed can provide a serious upgrade. Lets outline a package where the veteran safety could excel…

Cover 1 “Robber”

Robber is designed to take away the middle pass zones and confuse the quarterback’s reads. The play calls for a man look with a middle zone (“robber”) and deep safety whose assignments can be easily disguised. The way it has been and can be utilized by the Jets is in a three safety, three corner, one linebacker, four down look.

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The outside linebackers (presumably Pace and Coples) are lined up as five techniques (on the outside shoulder of the tackles) and are responsible for attacking the C gaps. The defensive ends (presumably Wilkerson and Richardson) are lined up as one technique defensive tackles (inside shoulder of the guards) and attack the A gaps. The cornerbacks (presumably Cromartie, Milliner, and Wilson) are assigned the wide receivers and the linebacker (presumably Davis) is responsible for the running back. The best man coverage safety, Antonio Allen, takes the tight end. Finally, what makes the robber technique so unique is the play of the other two safeties. One plays deep center field and the other, the robber, plays a unique, mid-field zone.

In the Jets case, Landry would probably play the robber role and Reed would play the centerfield safety. The Jets could not play Cover 1 Robber to its full effectiveness with Landry or Jarrett playing the centerfield role but Reed is perfect for the job. Both the centerfield and robber are watching the quarterback’s eyes to anticipate and jump the route. However having Landry at robber and Reed at deep centerfield puts both players in their natural positions, in the box and ball hawk respectively.

Cover 1 Robber is just one example of many three safety looks Rex Ryan has and will continue to employ. In all of them, Reed as the deep centerfield will provide help over the top for the struggling cornerbacks and prevent the big plays we saw against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Playing in a deep zone will allow Reed to use his instincts for positioning and prevent quarterbacks from taking advantage of his dwindling physical abilities.

Perspective Checkpoint: 

Reed is 35 and dealing with a hip injury. He will not play 100% of the snaps. Nor will he play 50% the snaps. Expect Reed to get, at most, 20-25 snaps per game in obvious passing situations. His instincts will allow him to be effective as a deep centerfield safety but don’t expect him to be in his Pro Bowl or Defensive Player of the Year form.

Reed as an Upgrade:

Jaiquan Jarrett, the pre-Reed third safety, has a total of eighteen tackles. Josh Bush, the Jets only true free safety, has eleven. If Reed can rack up even one pass deflection or an interception he will be an on the field upgrade over any Jets safety not named Landry or Allen. Reed will also make an impact…

Off the Field: 

Allen, Bush, Jarrett, and UDFA Rontez Miles are all young and impressionable. Who better to teach them the minutiae of the safety position than the future hall of famer. Reed can impress on them the film room, weight room, and on-field tactics that made him an all world talent.

It would be poor journalism to ignore Reed’s sometimes questionable locker room attitude and the impact it could have on this particularly young team. One factor may mitigate this potential issue however…

Rex Ryan and Ed Reed Have History:

Rex Ryan coached Ed Reed for most of his tenure in Baltimore. Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman are major contributing factors in Reed’s success. The three of them developed a strong bond in Baltimore’s defensive meeting room. Like many of his former players, Reed only had glowing praise for his “then and now” coach. Ryan’s former players, who have seen his ability to get the most out of presumed “washed up” athletes, reacted to the signing on Twitter:

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What is There to Lose?

According to Ryan, the only reason Reed wasn’t a Jet before the season was because of financial restraints. All the better! Now, the Jets get Reed for seven games on a prorated veteran minimum contract for a grand total of $411,250 (re: Joe Caporoso). So money is not an issue.

Before inking the deal you can be sure that John Idzik and Ryan detailed Reed’s role to him. He must be content with seeing Allen and Landry take snaps ahead of him to have signed in New York.

Finally, the Jets cut the underperforming Ricky Sapp to make room for Reed. Sapp did not have a presence on special teams and, even with extended opportunities, failed to capitalize and make an impact as a pass rusher. Aside from occasional flashes, the Jets didn’t lose much on the field by signing Reed.

Another low risk/high reward signing by Idzik…

Low Risk:

Perhaps Reed will have a cancerous effect on the locker room, but probably not. A united and talented team with an established core of leaders and a strong head coach will keep the locker room together. The money is not an issue. So, in the end, the Jets worst case scenario is the status quo.

High Reward:

Reed will impart vital knowledge on the Jets young safety corps. He could make an impact as a centerfield ballhawk. He even has the potential to do for the Jets what Sharper or Woodson did for the Saints and Packers.

What do you think? Let us hear it in the comments!