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Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

49ers TE Jordan Reed steps up with his biggest performance since 2018 in George Kittleā€™s absence

Sep 20, 2020 at 4:33 PM--

With All-Pro tight end George Kittle sidelined with a knee issue and a number of wide receivers dealing with injuries of their own, the 49ers needed someone to step up and carry the weight in the pass-catching department against the New York Jets on Sunday.

Needless to say, veteran tight end Jordan Reed answered the call in a big way.

Given his extensive injury history, it was hard to know what to expect from Reed after he signed with the 49ers in August. Reed missed the entire 2019 season after sustaining the seventh known concussion of his career and was limited to 65 total games over his first seven NFL seasons. But after being brought along slowly during training camp, Reed began to show signs of still being the type of player he was earlier in his career when he made the Pro Bowl in 2015 with Washington after catching 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After catching one pass on ten plays against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, Reed found himself in the spotlight this week during the 49ers' 31-13 win over the Jets. Reed delivered in Kittle's absence with seven catches on eight targets for 50 yards and two touchdowns -- his first scores since catching seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in a Washington loss to Houston in November of 2018.

"That was great for Jordan," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. "We knew he had a chance to have a big game today. I don't know what he finished with, but he was the same guy he's always been. He beat man coverage, his hands were great, he did a good job in the run game and really helped us today."

The past two games have been big moments for Reed, who has admitted he considered retiring after his concussion in 2019. Things are now moving full steam ahead for Reed, who appears poised to play a big role on offense this season for the 49ers if he can avoid any further injuries.

"It feels great," Reed said Sunday. "All the hard work this offseason and just having faith in myself and it actually coming true like that is just a great feeling. I understand I've got to keep improving every week and keep grinding."

Reed has seemingly found a solid rapport with starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo even though the two of them haven't been working together for more than a few weeks. Reed may have to work with backup quarterback Nick Mullens in the near future after Garoppolo suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, but he and Garoppolo have shown they are in sync and on the same page.

"I'm just trying to give Jimmy confidence he can throw me the pill and I'm going to come down with it every time," Reed said. "It's great playing with Jimmy. He's got a quick release. He's really accurate with the ball, and it just allows me to get an edge on a guy and he's going to put it where it needs to be."

Reed was even caught off-guard that Garoppolo left the Jets game at halftime, considering he tried not to let on that he was injured while on offense.

"Honestly I didn't even know he was injured at all," Reed said. "He didn't make it known to me or anyone else, I don't think, in the huddle. He never winced or anything like that. He always kept his composure, so when I heard he was going out, I was kind of confused. But I'm glad it's a small thing and he'll bounce right back."

Time will tell when Garoppolo returns to the lineup, but when he does, he could have both Kittle and Reed at his disposal again given that the 49ers are hopeful to see Kittle back on the field against the New York Giants in Week 3. For now, Reed will have no problem stepping up and continuing to take charge if he needs to.

"It's easy on this team because there's so many great players and so much talent at the coaching positions," Reed said. "It takes a lot off my back when I know I just have to do my job and that's it. Good things are going to happen because Coach Shanahan is going to put us in the right position. I'm just grateful to be on this team and have this opportunity to be here."

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