The last few weeks, we’ve seen Ed Reed make plays that Ed Reed doesn’t usually make.
The Ravens’ eight-time Pro Bowl safety has bounced off ball-carriers, taken poor routes to the ball and at times looked far from the elite player that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing line up in Baltimore’s defensive backfield.
Reed told reporters after Sunday’s win over the Bengals that he’s been affected by a lingering shoulder injury, and he’s also battling a nerve impingement in his neck - painful injuries that appear to have limited his tackling ability.
Asked yesterday about Reed’s health and whether it’s affecting the safety’s play, head coach John Harbaugh declined to answer specifically, but did say that he feels Reed is still playing at a high level.
“That’s a better question for Ed,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Ed Reed, and I’m sure everybody else does. I guarantee that the people who are playing against him, they know where he is at back there. Our coverage in our secondary (against the Bengals) was excellent. That starts with Ed Reed. Ed covered up a couple of things that happened on some of those play-action downfield routes and covered some of those guys downfield one-on-one. (It’s) a pretty tough task for a safety to do that.
“So, believe me, Ed Reed is carrying more than his weight. As far as what you’re talking about, he’ll address that.”
It’s hard to quantify how many big plays Reed has specifically taken away because of his ability to freelance in the secondary or opposing quarterbacks’ fear of his big-play potential. Teams still gameplan specifically for Reed and are wary of taking many deep shots down the field because Reed has been known to appear out of nowhere and force a turnover.
But it’s easy to spot the plays that Reed has missed because his injuries have limited his ability to tackle in the open field.
One of them came in the first half on Sunday, when Reed whiffed on an attempted tackle on Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham. Reed didn’t wrap up, and let Gresham run right through him for an extra few yards. Another came in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, when Reed took a bad angle on a Bernard Scott run and let Scott get by him for a 25-yard touchdown.
There really isn’t much the Ravens can do about this now. The bye week will allow Reed some extra time to let his neck and shoulder heal, but it’s something he’ll have to battle the rest of the way out.
The only question is if Reed can balance out the missed tackles by coming through with some of the big plays we’ve seen countless times over his career. That’s what the Ravens are counting on as they enter postseason play.
“He’s been around,” Harbaugh said of his 33-year-old safety. “He knows how to play, and he’ll take care of that.”