New York Jets CB DJ Reed showed why he’s a top cover man in stoppage performance against Arizona
New York Jets cornerback DJ Reed – formerly of the Seattle Seahawks – was quietly one of the most productive cornerbacks in the NFL during the 2021 season. Reed allowed 0.63 yards per snap of coverage, ranking sixth out of 96 qualified corners. That performance was good enough to land him a three-year, $33 million contract in New York City in free agency.
Reed capped off his stellar 2021 campaign with a dazzling showcase in Seattle’s Week 18 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He solidified himself as an excellent starting cornerback with a dominating performance that showed off all the things that made him so good in cover all year.
After watching Reed’s film of his duel with the Cardinals, it was clear to me that diving deep into this individual game would be a perfect way to give Jets fans an idea of what Reed is capable of when he’s at his best. .
DJ Reed’s Week 18 game recap against the Cardinals
You wouldn’t know Reed played so well against Arizona if you just looked at the box score or watched the game on TV. His stat line shows he had five tackles (zero for the loss) while failing to record an interception, pass deflection, sack, or forced fumble.
But when you look deeper — digging into the advanced numbers, then backing up the data by watching the tape — it becomes clear just how amazing Reed really was.
While playing a season-high 53 snaps coverage, Reed allowed a minimum of 2 yards on throws in his coverage. Yes, of them. Kyler Murray targeted Reed 4 times and completed 2 passes for 2 yards.
Reed’s coverage was instrumental in creating a bevy of sacks and scrambles by Murray, who was sacked five times and forced into four scrambles that produced no first downs.
In the end, Reed helped Seattle give up a season-low 187 passing yards while playing on the road against a top-10 passing offense. That includes just 88 receiving yards by Arizona’s wide receiver unit led by AJ Green and Christian Kirk.
Reed was a driving force behind Seattle’s upset win despite not making a single play that would be included in a highlight video. His work happened behind the scenes; out of the stat sheet and out of view of the TV show.
Let’s see Reed in action.
DJ Reed movie
On our first play, Reed falls into the outside coverage area. Murray feeds the ball to his running back, James Conner, and Reed charges downhill to stop for no gain. Reed does a good job of collapsing early and not chasing too much, successfully keeping Conner ahead of him.
Murray again sends the ball to his running back, this time being Jonathan Ward. Reed forces him out of bounds for a measly two-yard gain. It’s not the prettiest save, but Reed takes a pretty good angle and gets enough contact to push the runner.
Those first two clips were the only catches “allowed” by Reed during the entire match. Obviously, these types of captures are not avoidable. You just want to see the primary defender doing the best damage limitation. That’s exactly what Reed did, allowing only two yards between the two grabs.
On this play, Reed finds himself without a wide receiver on his side, so he moves inside to what is essentially an outside linebacker lineup. Once the tight end has stayed to block and the ball carrier has passed to the other side, Reed has no threat left in his area, so he flips his head down and looks for someone to cover. Reed finds a receiver who has a mismatch with a linebacker on a crossover route. Reed goes under the road to close it, removing the big pass and forcing a short run instead.
Reed takes on AJ Green and sticks with him on the loop road, taking him as a throwing option. Murray still gets the first down but Reed won his individual assignment. Not to mention, had Reed been beaten, a throw to Green would have been more productive than the checkdown Murray ended up suffering.
Reed closes Antoine Wesley’s starting route, gets involved early and stays on top of the route. Murray looks at the route early in his progress but declines the option thanks to Reed’s early contact and solid positioning at the top of the route. He ends up rushing for a tiny win.
Reed and Wesley face off again. Murray targets Wesley this time around, but they have a misunderstanding as Wesley stops for a 10-yard loop and Murray throws the ball deep. Either way, Reed was everywhere with Wesley. Good coverage tends to cloud the chemistry between quarterback and receiver.
Reed plays the deep third here and smoothly deals with Arizona’s road combination as he gets enough depth to take the cornering road to the point man out of the peloton’s formation. Seattle does an effective job of covering it all up and Murray throws in a prayer that falls incomplete.
Playing the man against Wesley, Reed remains patient and doesn’t fall for Wesley’s outside release. Reed mirrors Wesley as he cuts inside and continues to stay attached when Wesley tries to get back outside on a whipped road. Murray looks that way for a quick throw but keeps the ball thanks to tight coverage from Reed, and he ends up getting fired.
I noticed a gaffe from Reed so I wanted to be fair and include it. Reed remains blocked on this block from Wesley and helps to allow a touchdown from Conner. Two other defensemen are more at fault than Reed for that touchdown, but he’s still not a good representative. We have to be fair when analyzing the players. Even the greatest performances are not perfect.
Reed completely shuts that route off by Christian Kirk, helping force Murray to fight for minimal yardage. Kirk creates some separation returning to the ball on the second effort, so Reed could have matched a bit better. But Reed’s initial victory was enough to help Seattle win this game.
Reed follows AJ Green beautifully down this deep route, once again removing a throwing option to play his part in creating a Murray sack.
Playing away from the line in a two-on-two against a stack, Reed takes the inside break path while his teammate at the line of scrimmage takes the break path. Reed matches Wesley’s traversal route, taking a clever anticipatory angle to meet Wesley on the field. Murray appears to consider that throw but passes it with Reed in good position to play the ball, and Murray is sacked again.
Reed prevents a potential tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Reed takes on Kirk with strong inside leverage. Kirk uses a patient vertical release and Reed does a great job staying just as patient as he stays square and doesn’t engage his hips back and forth. Kirk tries to hit Reed with a false tilt before working into a fade but Reed stops him physically. Reed takes over the road, using his hands to thwart Kirk’s vertical momentum. No one is home for Murray.
DJ Reed excels at playing quiet football – in a good way
That game against Arizona exemplified the type of season Reed had.
Reed was not a star point guard, as he recorded modest totals of two interceptions (both were in the same game) and 10 passes defended.
What Reed has done well is win his missions extremely consistently, knocking his matchups out of the game. His impact happens out of the spotlight.
Reed played in five games in 2021 where he was credited with giving up under 10 yards. It is capable of setting up outstanding wire-to-wire lock coverage performance.
Sauce Gardner is all over the defensive headlines in New York, but don’t sleep on DJ Reed.