Jordan Reed thought about retiring. The tight end was coming off the seventh documented concussion of his career and was weeks away from being released from Washington. His career was at a crossroads.
But as Reed watched the Super Bowl in February, the 30-year-old said he started to feel “ignited” again. He saw how the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers traded leads, going back-and-forth in a chess match at the highest level. He knew he wanted more of that.
“I want to play in those big games,” Reed told reporters in August.
Reed’s path led him to San Francisco, where he signed a one-year, $1 million deal in an attempt to salvage his career. And on Sunday, Reed, despite his injury history, showed he had something left — catching two touchdowns in the 49ers’ 31-13 win over the New York Jets. With San Francisco tight end George Kittle out with a knee injury, Reed led the 49ers in receptions with seven and finished with 50 yards. It was Reed’s first multi-touchdown game since Oct. 23, 2017.
Across the NFL on Sunday, there were former Washington players playing elsewhere — some doing better than others (Hello, Kirk Cousins). But none stood out more than Reed, who missed all of last year with a concussion.
“All the hard work this season, having faith in myself, and it actually coming true like that,” Reed told reporters after the win. “It’s just a great feeling. I understand that I have to keep improving, just keep grinding.”
“That was great for Jordan,” coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Reed’s resurgence is overshadowing another former Washington star now thriving in San Francisco: Trent Williams. After Washington traded Williams to the 49ers in April, the seven-time Pro Bowler has been dominant the first two games. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has graded as the league’s seventh-best tackle among players who’ve played at least 20% of the snaps. (By comparison, Washington left tackle Geron Christian, Williams’ replacement, ranks 67 out of 71.)
Williams’ top moment came during the 49ers’ Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals when the tackle demolished linebacker Jordan Hicks on a block up the field. The video clip went viral. Williams said that on the way to making the block, he knew he had the “kill shot” — a perfect way to describe it.
Outside of San Francisco, recently released running back Adrian Peterson has found a role with the Detroit Lions. When Washington released Peterson last month, coach Ron Rivera said he knew Peterson could still be a productive player, saying the release was more about fit in the team’s new offense.
With the Lions, Peterson has shown he’s still a capable runner. He’s averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, though his carries were significantly down in Week 2 (seven from 14). Against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Peterson rushed for 41 yards.
All three players are in their first year with their new teams. They’re the latest examples of players who leave Washington only to shine elsewhere.
For instance, Preston Smith had a career-high 12 sacks in 2019 as the Packers went to the NFC Championship. Jamison Crowder hasn’t won a lot of games with the New York Jets, but coach Adam Gase said last week that the slot receiver was “probably our best player on offense the last two years.” Crowder missed this week with a hamstring injury.
The most famous departure of recent years, of course, has been Kirk Cousins. But since signing with the Vikings in 2018, Minnesota fans have come to experience the wild swings that come with Cousins under center.
On Sunday, Cousins had one of his worst performances in years. Against the Indianapolis Colts, the quarterback managed a lowly 15.9 passer rating — the lowest of his career. His stat line was ugly: 113 yards, a 42.3% completion percentage and three interceptions.
Minnesota is off to an 0-2 start after giving Cousins a two-year, $66 million extension in the offseason.
Washington, meanwhile, won’t play Cousins this year. But it will face other alums. The team travels to Detroit to face Peterson and the Lions on Nov. 15. Then, almost a month later, it faces Reed and Williams when San Francisco hosts Washington on Dec. 13.
Now, they just have to stay healthy.
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