Jordan Reed must be more involved in SF 49ers offense vs. Jets

Jordan Reed #81 of the SF 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jordan Reed #81 of the SF 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

With SF 49ers star tight end George Kittle out versus the New York Jets, the team should look to get another player going at his position.

The Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals has proven more costly for the SF 49ers than simply a 0-1 record to start the year.

The bevy of injuries sustained during that game is racking up, with players like cornerbacks Richard Sherman (calf) and Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion), wide receiver Richie James (hamstring), and tight end George Kittle (knee) coming out of the contest with some sort of ailment.

Sherman and James have been put on IR, which means they’ll miss at least the next three weeks, while Witherspoon cleared the concussion protocol and is set to start opposite Emmanuel Moseley on Sunday.

But the biggest loss — mostly because he’s the best player of the group — is Kittle, who will at least miss Sunday’s matchup at the Jets, but plans to travel to West Virginia next week to prepare for the second of two games in MetLife Stadium in as many weeks.

With Witherspoon stepping into Sherman’s position and newly signed Mohamed Sanu taking James’ roster spot, those issues are covered for the short term. And with the hopes of getting wideout Deebo Samuel back after the Giants game in Week 3, the wide receiver depth chart is getting quite the shakeup in the next few weeks.

The real question is what to do about Kittle being missing for at least this week against the Jets.

While none of the other tight ends on the roster — Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, and Charlie Woerner — are capable of doing the kinds of things that Kittle can do on the field, there is one that has been the closest facsimile when he’s healthy: Jordan Reed.

Reed came to the SF 49ers this offseason looking to show he’s still a top-notch NFL player, after having sustained a number of concussions and other injuries while a member of the Washington Football Team.

He made the roster, but the SF 49ers were clearly making sure to be careful with him during last week’s loss to the Cardinals, as Reed featured on just 10 snaps, catching just two passes for a mere 12 yards.

And while SF 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has gone on the record this week that the Niners have been “building up to ten plays” with Reed and that the plan was “build up a little bit more this week” and that “[i]t doesn’t change much with George out,” that doesn’t mean that Reed can’t have a bigger impact even under the football version of a pitch count.

Yes, Dwelley and Woerner will be called upon as well, as Shanahan noted in that same press conference they’ll “all get more playing time,” but neither of them has reached the heights that Reed has in the past.

So it will be up to Reed to take advantage of the snaps he does get and work to do more in open space with the ball in his hands. In 2015, his best season in Washington, according to Pro Football Focus, Reed racked up 529 yards after the catch, good for 5.5 per reception.

In Kittle’s record-breaking 2018 campaign, 873 of his tight end record 1,377 yards came after the catch, good 9.9 per reception.

So while those numbers do not create a like-for-like comparison, they do show Reed to be a player comfortable in space with the ball in his hands after the catch. He’ll need to show that on Sunday to attempt to replicate a little of what Kittle offers the SF 49ers when healthy.

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Nobody else is George Kittle and the 49ers should not expect Jordan Reed to be anything but himself.

But Reed at his best, even in a limited capacity, should do a lot to help jumpstart the offense for the SF 49ers and help prime the team for victory on Sunday.