Through nine games this season, Reed has at least one 30-yard reception in five of them. His seven catches of 30 or more yards on the season are tied for the second-most in football, behind only Miami’s Tyreek Hill.
“I just come in here every week,” said Reed on Wednesday, “I come in here to work. Every week, I talk to him (Love) on things I can do better. I’ll ask him questions on certain things. Just building that relationship on and off the field helps out a lot. Definitely just come in with a work mentality every week.”
During Green Bay’s first five games of the season, Reed caught only 52 percent of this passes thrown his way. On contested catches, a calling card of his during his time in college at Michigan State, Reed was 0-for-5.
However, in the previous four games, Reed has hauled in 75 percent of his 20 targets with two touchdowns. Out of 81 eligible receivers, Reed ranks 15th in yards per catch with 15.7 and 21st in yards per route run—an efficiency metric from PFF.
“That’s just Jordan Love,” added Reed. “He trust me. It all starts with that. His trust in me helped me make plays. So I appreciate that from him. Coach is making great play calls and it just happens just like that. Most of these things in the offense it ends with trust. When everyone can trust everybody, you’ll get good results. That’s what I’ve learned.”
Reed’s recent surge has helped provide the Packers offense with a more effective downfield passing game. His four receptions of 20 or more yards are the third-most during that same four-game span, and Reed’s 146 yards of such pass attempts are the sixth-most. It’s not a coincidence, that Reed’s elevated play – along with Luke Musgrave and Dontayvion Wicks – has resulted in Love being more efficient on those deep pass attempts in recent weeks.
Without a vertical passing game in your arsenal as an offense, it’s a tough way to live in the NFL. It forces the offense to put together long scoring drives, which is not a recipe for success for this young offense that has been so mistake prone. The lack of a deep threat also changes how opposing defenses defend Green Bay, allowing them to shrink the field and play closer to the line of scrimmage, which makes moving the ball in other facets more difficult.
“I think he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with the system,” said Love about Reed’s growth. “With the routes he’s running, where to be, the coverages he’s getting for these routes and I think he’s just playing really fast—he’s not thinking. He knows what he’s doing, he knows where he needs to get to, and obviously he’s a really fast, dynamic player, and I think he’s able to play really fast right now. Obviously he’s making plays on the back end, catching the ball really well, and making some plays after the catch.”
The growth and leap that we’ve seen from Reed in recent weeks can be attributed to the added experience he has and comfortability with not only the offense but what opposing defenses are throwing at him. Not just Reed, but Green Bay’s young group of pass-catchers as a whole were dropping passes, running the wrong routes, and struggling to counter unscouted looks that opponents threw their way. However, more reps – both in practice and in games – along with seeing more looks from defenses, has led to a much more effective group of pass-catchers for the Packers over the last few games.
An excellent sign of growth from Reed came on the final drive of the Pittsburgh game with Love under pressure and Reed making a beeline for open field where he was able to catch the deep ball that helped put the Packers in scoring position. That was not a play that was drawn up or one that had been practice before, but simply an off-script situation where both Reed and Love had the same thought and were on the same page.
“Just understanding the offense,” said Reed of his improved play. “Understanding the defense. Understanding football in general at this level. You definitely see a lot of different things at this level. The timing is different with the D-line and everything. How DBs play is different. Just everything overall. Just understanding the game has definitely helped with that.”
As is the case for any young player, the next step for Reed is to continue to build upon his recent performances, gaining consistency, and making what we’ve seen over the last four games be more so the norm rather than the outlier.
Reed’s emergence has provided a needed spark to the Packers passing game, and for a unit that needs a go-to option right now for Love in those must-have-it situations, Reed could end up being that player, with his speed, ability to create separation, and natural feel for playing the position.
“I just think with experience it naturally happens for most,” said Matt LaFleur. “He’s a talented guy and it means a lot to him. I just love his mentality. I think he is wired the right way mentally, in terms of how he attacks it.
“Not that it’s always going to be perfect, but when he does make mistakes there’s no flinch to him. He just keeps it moving and doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t allow one play to affect the next and we expect him to continue to grow and develop. He’s far from a finished product but he’s got a very bright future.”