ASHBURN, Va. -- He shared a simple desire for the upcoming season with one of his trainers: stay healthy. That’s what Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed wanted in 2015. He wanted to prove he was durable. If he did that, he was sure he'd also prove his worth.
Reed fell two games shy of his goal, but his season motivated him for this one. And he shared that motivation with one of the men who trained him, David Robinson.
“He’s hungry. He really believes he has the chance to be the best tight end in the game,” said Robinson, who trains players in Houston and has worked with Reed the past two offseasons. “Last year, he wasn’t talking like that. This year he’s saying, ‘I want to make it to the Pro Bowl. I want to prove I’m the best tight end in the game.’ You can tell the difference in his confidence.”
Reed is coming off his best season, totaling 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Quarterback Kirk Cousins owned a 130.1 passer rating when targeting Reed.
The Redskins rewarded Reed with a multiyear extension this offseason.
“I still want to be durable,” Reed said. “I still haven’t played 16 games. I want to be the best because last year I had a little taste of success and I feel I could keep improving. If I do that, then my name will be up there with some of the top guys.”
To get there, Reed again worked out at various times in Houston with Robinson and in Miami with Pete Bommarito, before and after the Redskins’ offseason work. Reed is a low-key player, so certain traits might get missed; his trainers witness his intensity and work ethic first-hand. It’s why Bommarito recruited him to work out after Reed left the University of Florida. His first two seasons in Washington were a mix of production (95 combined catches) and injuries (12 missed games).
But Reed altered his workouts and his habits last offseason, changing his diet -- no bread, no fried foods -- and incorporated more stretching exercises. He said it helped him recover faster than in the past.
“Right now, we’re finally realizing the true Jordan Reed,” Bommarito said. “It’s not like he wasn’t good before, but here’s a guy who hasn’t yet reached his full growth potential. That’s scary, with just how strong he is and how much muscle he can put on his frame and gain speed. You just don’t see that type player built the way he’s built who can move like he moves.”
Robinson focused on creating more separation from defenders, something Reed already does well. Robinson would line up cones in tight spaces and have Reed focus on footwork and being under control going around the cone -- and as he comes out of the cone, as if breaking, he’d have him push forward. This was designed to help against players aligned several yards off him.
“He has to make the move on the run rather than at a standstill position,” Robinson said. “We worked on not being lackadaisical and still run full speed out of cuts and create more separation.
“[Before] he was doing things off natural, raw talent. The things we’ve worked on are his IQ at the receiver position and teaching him different release techniques and different moves at the top of his routes.”
Bommarito said earlier in Reed’s career they did not want to overstress his joints after seasons in which he dealt with numerous injuries. But, in the past two offseasons, they’ve worked more on building strength. Also, Bommarito said Reed has listened to his suggestions for acupuncture, nutrition and supplements.
“He does every single thing we ask him to do,” Bommarito said. “Usually it takes a few years and then players get their act together. With Jordan, he learned at a young age and implemented it into his lifestyle. Now we can train him the way we really want to. And he’s just so genetically gifted.”
During drills, Reed impressed his trainers with his ability to cut.
“We’re watching him make these sharp cuts off the outside edge at tremendous speed and he gains speed out of his cuts,” Bommarito said. “We’re looking at each other shaking our heads like, ‘How did he do that?'"
Bommarito said Reed moves more like a running back than a tight end.
“It’s hard to find a guy that tall who gets that low,” Bommarito said. “It’s not like he’s super fast. He’s just fast when he cuts because he’s so strong in and out of breaks and gets so low.”
That’s what the coaches see on the field, too. That’s why they’re excited about what Reed can continue to do, and the matchup problem he’ll remain for defenses. He worked on making his cuts strong regardless of the direction.
“I noticed in practice where one side wasn’t as strong as the other on certain cuts,” Reed said. “That’s when I knew I could improve, to make sure both sides are as strong and explosive. I was able to do some routes that I had stopped doing because of knee injuries.”
“When people call [now], I always refer back to Jordan Reed,” Bommarito said. “I know tight ends aren’t fantasy football gods, but what I anticipate him doing based on his work ethic is tremendous.”