Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers TE Jordan Reed continues to make strides at practice

Aug 28, 2020 at 3:11 PM--

Veteran tight end Jordan Reed saw his first practice time with the San Francisco 49ers earlier this week, but it's already evident he has the ability to give the team a free agent steal -- if he stays healthy.

That's a big "if," given Reed's injury history. The 30-year-old Reed has appeared in just 65 games over his first seven NFL seasons since joining the Washington Redskins as a third-round draft pick in 2013 and did not play at all in 2019 after sustaining the seventh concussion of his career.

But, when he's been able to stay on the field, Reed has proven to be the type of difference-maker NFL teams yearn for at tight end. Reed's first three seasons, which included a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 after totaling 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, were good enough to convince the Redskins to sign him to a five-year, $50 million contract in the spring of 2016. A rash of injuries over the next four seasons kept Reed from performing up to that contract, then after being released by Washington in February, Reed was signed by the 49ers to a one-year deal on August 9 with the hope that he can stay healthy and give the offense an extra pass-catching threat at tight end this season alongside 2019 All-Pro selection George Kittle.

Reed was eased back into action by the 49ers before making his practice debut on August 25, then saw his reps increase on Thursday with Kittle sidelined due to hamstring tightness. Reed impressed observers with his performance Friday (Nick Wagoner of ESPN tweeted Reed had a "strong day" after catching multiple passes and a late touchdown), which suggests he is already in good position to secure a spot on the team's 53-man roster. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington during Reed's rookie season, told reporters following Friday's practice that Reed had some good moments while also experiencing a couple plays he'd like to have back.

"It was good to get Jordan out there more than he has been out there," said Shanahan. "I thought it was probably his most reps, at least back-to-back reps. I thought he made some good plays, some of the obvious ones you guys saw, and missed a couple also."

Reed is among a group of four players competing for depth spots behind Kittle along with third-year tight end Ross Dwelley, rookie and sixth-round draft pick Charlie Woerner, and undrafted rookie Chase Harrell. The 49ers may wind up keeping four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster, with Reed possibly having as good of a chance of making the cut as any of them besides Kittle.

The tight end group as a whole has made a positive impression on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who gave some praise to each player following practice on Friday. But while every player competing for a spot at tight end can bring something beneficial to the table, there's no doubt that having a proven pass-catching threat like Reed at his disposal would be an added bonus Garoppolo would love to have.

"It would be huge," said Garoppolo. "With George having limited reps and everything, it's giving other guys an opportunity to step up. It's good to see when guys are getting that opportunity, they're taking advantage of it. Jordan had a great day today. He can do things in space and make guys miss. The other guys, Charlie, Chase, those guys have been stepping up too. It's a group effort there at tight end. You're happy to see guys take advantage of it."

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