As a rookie, David Reed spent the vast majority of his on-field time on gamedays returning kickoffs and participating in the Ravens' other special teams units.
The wide receiver had one rush for 15 yards last year, but he didn't have a catch all season and rarely factored into the Ravens' offensive gameplan.
Going into Reed's second season, the Ravens drafted wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. Then, Reed missed nearly the first three weeks of training camp as he recovered from offseason wrist surgery.
Not much appeared to be working in Reed's favor, and it sure looked like the Utah product was going to get buried on the Ravens' depth chart. That was until Reed came out in last Friday's preseason game against the Chiefs looking like he'd been a key part of the offense for years, making three catches for 68 yards.
Asked about Reed's standing compared to the two rookie wide receivers, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said that despite the time Reed missed at the start of camp, he has an edge over Smith and Doss at this point.
"I would say he's ahead," Cameron said. "Last year, right when we all got excited about him, he got hurt. Then, this offseason he has to have his (wrist) re-done, but now he's back and hopefully he can stay healthy. There's no question he's ahead of these guys in the sense that he's not hearing most of this stuff for the first time. He's got a good feel for NFL defenses. He knows what the expectation is.
"He's been nothing but a plus, not only this year so far, because he's come back with the right attitude. But he's practiced well, and he played pretty good the other night."
He sure did.
After an early drop on the first pass thrown his way, Reed made three catches and forced a pass interference penalty within just over a four-minute span against Kansas City, a game which came only four days after the shifty wideout had been activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
He saw limited practice time last week as trainers eased him back into action, and then took the coaches aback with his performance against the Chiefs.
"I was very surprised he got in the game and then played as well as he did because he wasn't even supposed to be in contact last week," head coach John Harbaugh said. "All of the sudden, he jumped in there and went full-go. All of the sudden, the trainers were like, 'OK. I guess he is OK.' That was a pleasant surprise, and I am looking forward to seeing how he does the next couple of weeks. He is a guy that we have been counting on, and we are very hopeful that he can be a threat for us."
Much like Doss, Reed's strengths are his smooth route running and impressive hands. He doesn't possess Smith's blazing speed or Anquan Boldin's physicality, but the 6-foot, 190-lb. receiver has a knack for finding the soft spot in coverages and quickly turning upfield to gain maximum yardage.
It remains to be seen how the battle for the third wide receiver spot will shake out over the next few weeks, but Reed has definitely forced his name into the conversation, and he's done so quicker than almost everyone expected.
"There's great competition for those guys," Cameron said. "(Reed's) an extremely talented young man, he just needs to play. He's an outstanding route runner, he's got great hands. We keep him healthy, this guy can help us win."
"I feel like I can make those plays. That was my thing through high school and college," Reed said after Friday's game. "We got a lot of great receivers. I still got to compete for a job just like the rest of those guys do, compete week-in and week-out in practices and games."