Recently, news came out that the Packers would be signing free agent DT Jarran Reed. With the Packers looking to stay in Super Bowl contention, adding a veteran defensive player like Reed makes sense. Green Bay’s depth chart along the DL was precipitously thin before the Reed addition. The departure of players like Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke weakened an already lackluster position group. Before Reed’s signing, the only defensive linemen listed on the roster were Kenny Clark, Jack Heflin, Dean Lowry, and TJ Slaton.
Reed is a free agent I’ve had my eye on for several weeks. He has been highly productive in the past. Based on PFF’s numbers, Reed previously recorded seasons of 11 (2018) and nine (2020) sacks with the Seahawks. However, he is coming off of a down year after signing with the Chiefs for the 2021 season. A discounted veteran who has shown the potential for high-end production, Reed seemed like a smart signing for a contender with little cap space.
Reed originally caught my attention before the 2021 season. In a May 2021 article, Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire mentioned him as the NFL’s best pass-rusher from the 4i alignment. The 4i – where the lineman is aligned on the inside shoulder of the tackle – is an important position within the Packers’ 3-4 fronts. So, now that the team has signed Reed, what does he bring to Green Bay’s defensive front? I watched 10+ games from 2021 and several from 2020 to find out.
(Note: clips from the broadcast view are from 2020, and clips from the end zone view are from 2021.)
In the Chiefs’ defense, Reed racked up 43 total tackles. Only two were TFLs. However, his impact in the run game goes beyond the stats. Against single blocks, Reed typically does a fantastic job controlling his blocker, using excellent strength, hand placement, leverage, and extension to dominate OL. Although he wasn’t often called upon to do it in Kansas City’s defense, Reed is able to effectively play primary-to-secondary gap in the run game using a blend of quickness, strength, and ball-carrier awareness. This gap-and-a-half DL technique is an important part of Green Bay’s defense. Joe Barry often likes to use light boxes, so having DL who can play more than one gap is critical.
Reed also shows an excellent capability to handle double teams, especially from positions outside the guard. It should be noted that, during his stint with the Chiefs, he struggled at times to recognize and absorb double teams from the 0t, 1t, and 2i techniques (the 0t plays directly over the center, the 1t plays on the shoulder of the center, and the 2i plays on the inside shoulder of the guard). However, his block reaction seemed to improve as the year went on. It’s possible that it just took some time for Reed to adjust to his role in the Chiefs defense.
When he is aligned at wider positions like the 4i or 3t (on the outside shoulder of the guard), Reed demonstrates the capacity to absorb and split double teams. He is usually able to engage the first blocker, maintain good leverage, and take on the second blocker. Often, he is able to get skinny and use his torque to split the double team. Even when his technique isn’t textbook-perfect, Reed rarely gets moved off his spot.
Multiple times while I was watching him, Reed demonstrated outstanding block recognition and football IQ. In the first clip of this next cutup, Reed quickly recognizes a Counter run. He fills the gap left by the pulling guard, uses his quickness to avoid the block from the fullback, and gets a TFL. On the second play, he feels the down block on the QB buck sweep, spins out of it, and chases down the run from behind.
Against zone running schemes, Reed is able to use his good first step and quick feet to maintain his gap responsibility. He also possesses the agility to disengage and play the cutback if necessary.
Reed’s athleticism and football intelligence allow him to be highly disruptive at times. On this first play, he uses a quick swim move to force a fourth down run back inside for a loss. On the second play, he follows the pulling guard on the bootleg, penetrates upfield too quickly for the other blockers to handle, and gets in the QB’s face.
In five years with the Seahawks, Reed recorded 36 QB hits and 27 sacks, according to PFF. Over his 2021 season with the Chiefs, he racked up eight QB hits and three sacks. Reed has multiple tools in his pass-rush inventory. He primarily wins when he can use his speed to threaten the edges of a blocker. One of his main moves is the club-rip. The speed of his first step often influences guards and centers to open their hips, giving Reed a good angle to rip through to the QB. He is capable of finishing the rep with power through contact, allowing him to get pressure even when he doesn’t cleanly beat the offensive lineman.
Reed is also capable of using his strength to crush the pocket. On several occasions, he beat blockers with a potent counter based off of his bull rush.
When he feels lineman blocking down on him, Reed displays an excellent spin countermove. Watching plays like these ones highlight how much of an athletic upgrade Reed is. Other than Clark, no other DL on the Packers roster would be able to pull this off.
Reed possesses other effective moves, such as this smooth swipe-swim. His impressive athleticism is again on display chasing down Josh Allen here.
One of the most intriguing elements of Reed’s game is his ability to instinctively string together counters. He flashes active hands and a great understanding of how to attack blockers. Even if he doesn’t initially win, he can still affect the play. This wasn’t always a consistent trait, but it showed up enough to provide value to a defense. In this first clip, Reed is rushing from a 4i alignment. He uses a stab-club move on the first blocker, then transitions to a snatch move to beat the sliding center. In the second play, Reed is again at the 4i, working as a penetrator on a T-E stunt. He uses a swipe on the first blocker, then slants over to the edge of the offensive line. He fluidly transitions to a club-stab-club combo to beat the tackle for a sack.
Reed regularly demonstrates great awareness of the QB. I saw multiple pressures and sacks come as a result of his ability to track the passer and disengage at the right time. His athleticism and intelligence come in handy when chasing down moving targets. In this first clip, he hits his blocker with a power rush, then tracks down the scrambling Josh Allen for a sack. In the second clip, he beats his first blocker, yanking him aside after trying a stab move. Shifting to the second blocker, he pushes the pocket then hits a well-timed swim to sack the scrambling QB. On the third play, he is again penetrating on a stunt from the 4i. Seeing the passer flushed out to his side, Reed uses an outside spin for the pressure.
How Does Reed Fit With the Packers?
Readers may be wondering at this point why Reed had a down year with the Chiefs. If he has so many useful skills, why wouldn’t he be more effective? I think the answer can be found in his usage.
Based on the game film, Kansas City played Reed at 1t a significant amount. This was especially noticeable later in the season, as the Chiefs moved Chris Jones back to 3t after experimenting with putting him at DE. Simply put, I don’t think playing inside the guard is the best use of Reed’s ability. As mentioned before, he had issues handling double-teams when he aligned in that area. Moreover, his pass-rush game benefits from greater space. Reed likes to threaten guards with his speed, then build counters off of their reactions. Players at the 1t or NT face more double teams and are often forced to work in confined spaces.
I think this ability to attack space is one of the reasons that, as Doug Farrar noted, Reed excels at the 4i. Assuming that an edge rusher is rushing against the tackle, Reed is free to work on the guard. Going against Reed at the 4i places a lot of stress on interior blockers, who have to account for the substantial space between themselves and Reed. That space often provides better angles for a speed rush. In addition, guards can start to set wide as they try to counter Reed’s speed. When the guards widen, that opens the door for Reed to use his ability to quickly transition to counter moves. The following cutup provides an example of this progression.
The first clip illustrates how Reed can use his speed and club-rip move to attack the outside shoulder of the guard. The second play shows his power counter. Reed sees the guard set wide, slants to the inside half of his blocker, then uses a bull rush to get the pressure. In the third clip, Reed uses an inside club-swim counter against another wide-setting guard.
What does all this mean? Essentially, Reed is joining a team where he will be able to play to his strengths. With Green Bay’s five-man fronts, Reed will be single-blocked more often. Having Kenny Clark on the same line won’t hurt either. He will frequently be able to align at the 4i, since the Packers often use 4i alignments in their base defense. He will rarely have to play inside the guards, except at certain times in Green Bay’s four-man nickel fronts. Although Reed struggled somewhat in Kansas City, multiple signs seem to indicate that he will be successful in Green Bay.
To sum up, Reed is an upgrade against both the pass and the run. Reed shows the ability to play primary-to-secondary gap against single blockers. He is capable of taking on double-teams, especially when lined up at 4i or 3t. He is a smart, athletic defender who can disrupt what offenses are trying to do. Reed can affect the passer in multiple ways, giving the Packers another legitimate pass-rushing threat. Fans could see Green Bay’s 5-man fronts take a big step in effectiveness, as Reed steps in to supplant replacement-level players like Tyler Lancaster. Overall, I think Reed will be a fantastic upgrade for a Packers DL in desperate need of reinforcements.
For More Great Wisconsin Sports Content
Follow me on Twitter at @Sam_DHolman and follow us @WiSportsHeroics for more great content. To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here! Also, check out our merch store for some amazing WSH merchandise!