- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2015

CHICAGO — The pre-draft scouting process had told Je’Ron Hamm that if he were to ever to make it to the NFL, let alone succeed, he’d have to do it as a tight end.
Hamm, a wide receiver in college, embraced the transition, interspersing his physical development with mental stimulation.

At times, to prepare himself for what he’d experience, he’d cue up highlights of three players — Julius Thomas, Jimmy Graham and future Washington Redskins teammate Jordan Reed.

“You can see he has some athleticism that I haven’t seen in the league from a tight end or a receiver or anybody,” Hamm said, referring to Reed. “He’s a hard guy to cover.”

Reed proved that yet again on Sunday, when he had nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown to help the Redskins defeat the Chicago Bears, 24-21, for their first road victory of the season.

Sunday marked the third time Reed has surpassed 100 receiving yards in a game and the first time this season. He had nine catches for 123 yards in a road loss to the Indianapolis Colts last season and had nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Bears during his rookie year.

The tight end almost scored twice. A review of an apparent 18-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Kirk Cousins at the end of the opening drive was called back because Reed’s left elbow was down before he extended the ball across the goal line.

SEE ALSO: Matt Jones, Redskins avoid disaster in fourth quarter on near-turnover

“Just execution, man,” Reed said. “Kirk was hitting me in stride and things like that. I was just running my routes the best I could, and it was working out today.”

Reed has been an asset for the Redskins since the team drafted him out of Florida in the third round in 2013, but his inability to stay healthy has often been an impediment to his development. A concussion cost him the final six games of his rookie year and a variety of leg injuries have recurred.

Earlier this year, Reed strained a quadriceps and missed two games after sustaining another concussion. He had 11 catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back, a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25, and while he had just 29 yards on three catches in Washington’s defeat of the New Orleans Saints three weeks later, two of those receptions were for touchdowns.

“I think the biggest thing is having him out there, because for so long, he wasn’t out there,” Cousins said. “When he is, he’s a difference-maker. He works hard. He’s very engaged.”

Praised routinely for his ability to create mismatches and separate himself from defenders, Reed was especially effective on Sunday. Earlier in the week, coach Wes Phillips alerted his players about the possibility that they could use their speed and athleticism effectively against the Bears’ bigger linebackers.

Reed noticed something else. Defenders were particularly susceptible to the first move a receiver would give them off the line of scrimmage, so he figured that if he truly wanted to break away, he could do so with a double move just after the snap.

The Redskins faced second-and-10 from their own 38-yard line on the second play of the third quarter when Reed, wide open over the middle, turned a six-yard pass into a 32-yard gain before he was tackled by inside linebacker Shea McClellin. On the second-to-last drive, with the Redskins again facing second-and-10, this time from their own 18-yard line, Cousins threw a pass that Reed stretched 10 yards into a first down.

Therein lie another of Reed’s greatest attributes: His ability to fight for, and gain, yards after the catch.

“I used to play QB [in college], so pre-snap read, I try to figure out what the coverage is going to be — and that helps me find out who’s guarding me and the leverage they have on me so I can give them a little move or do what I need to do to get open,” Reed said.

Hamm, who is in his second season with the Redskins but spent most of both of them on the practice squad, thinks Reed’s athleticism is what sets him apart from other players.

“I think when he gets the ball, he knows that he has the moves to get open, so you always see him trying to make a play for us,” Hamm said. “That’s huge with us, as far as him catching the ball and getting an extra 10, five, however many yards he gets. He gets us a first down on a five-yard route and gets 10 yards after the catch.”

After the game, as the mild-mannered Reed answered questions from reporters, several of his teammates walked by and offered verbal barbs about getting him a new contract or sending him to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

“It makes me feel good, you know, that they appreciate what I’m doing on the field and things like that and that my hard work’s paying off,” Reed said.

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