by Rick Snider

It’s all about Jordan Reed.

The Washington Redskins overthink offensively too often. Too many Xs and not enough attention to the one that makes the red zone offense work – Reed.

Reed caught an eight-yard touchdown pass against Cleveland on Sunday for a 7-0 Washington lead. Then he caught a nine-yard score for a 14-0 lead. Suddenly, the red zone blues were cured.

And yet, quarterback Kirk Cousins continues his sporadic paralysis by analysis by disagreeing that Reed is the key to the Redskins offense. That the team’s loaded receiving corps and suddenly-resurrected running game make the offense come together rather than the tight end.

“I think you could have aligned a lot of different formations that would have put anyone else in that position running that same route,” Cousins said, “and you’d like to think with how many talented players we have they can all make that play, but Jordan was the guy today where my reads took me to him, but your reads will take you different places each play.”

Funny, those fade routes that failed too often during the 0-2 start have been shelved. Instead, Washington returned to finding Reed across the middle of the end zone in its 31-20 victory over Cleveland at FedEx Field. Cousins later tossed a five-yard score to Chris Thompson while Matt Jones ran for a one-yard touchdown. The red hot offense was ablaze.

But it begins with Reed, whose first touchdown was his 200th career reception in 38 games, an NFL record. He caught nine of 10 passes to him in Sunday’s victory over the Browns for 73 yards. The touchdowns were the key, though. They gave the Redskins needed confidence in a shootout. Long drives were finally completed without DeSean Jackson scoring from far out.

While it’s nice that Jones ran for 117 yards and six others caught passes, Reed truly remains the offense’s focal point no matter how much playcaller Sean McVay resists finding the tight end near the goal line. While throwing two scores to Reed, Cousins says Washington has to lean on others.

“[Reed] always seems to be a great target in the red zone and it’s great to have him,” Cousins said, “and we will continue to figure out ways to get him the football, but teams are going to double-team him and that’s when you’ll have great options elsewhere as well.”

Reed’s 25 catches for 263 yards has him on pace for 100 catches and more than 1,000 yards if healthy, which has always been a concern. But Reed’s 87 catches for 952 yards in 14 games last season included 11 touchdowns when he was much more of a red zone presence.

Touchdowns are candy among players. They may claim winning is more important, but so is scoring themselves. Jamison Crowder joins Reed with two touchdown receptions while Thompson and Jackson have one each. Pierre Garcon, long the grinder on the roster, has none.

Gruden and McVay are looking for balance on the field and contentment in the locker room. There’s really no such thing, though. The best players get the biggest shares. When reaching the red zone, the Redskins need to target Reed. Otherwise, there’s no happiness in losing.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.


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