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The Seahawks are squandering D.J. Reed’s potential by playing him out of position

It’s understandable yet incomprehensible and infuriating.

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Football Team Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Science was not my best subject in school.

I mention this, in an over-sharing sort of way, because I am going to use the scientific term “hypothesis” in the second fourth “paragraph” of this article and then, a short(ish) time later, I am going to say something like, “This here data proves my hypothesis,“ and some of you (many of you?) are going to immediately think, “That isn’t how hypothesis testing works,” (or some variation thereof), and, even though I know that (because I have an internet connection and Google hasn’t banned me yet), it is not going to stop me from completely, and unapologetically, butchering the concept.

Sort of like Taylor Swift and privacy, George Lucas and cultural sensitivity, or the 2021 Seahawks defense and statistical relevance.

Break-up songs, Jar Jar Binks, and last-place rankings aside, I have a hypothesis that I would like to share with my fellow 12s.

But not yet.

First I need to want to set the stage - so to speak.

(Even though the title of the article kind of sort of did that for me.)


Flash back to 2020

August 5th, 2020: Seahawks Claim Defensive Back D.J. Reed Off Waivers

49ers general manager John Lynch told Bay Area reporters that Reed would not be able to return to action until at least November ...

October 31st, 2020: Seahawks Activate D.J. Reed ...

The Seahawks made several roster moves ahead of Sunday’s game against the 49ers, including the addition of ... Cornerback D.J. Reed ... who the Seahawks claimed after San Francisco waived him with a non-football injury designation ... (Reed) will make his debut against the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft.

November 1st, 2020: Seahawks Bounce Back With Dominant Win Over 49ers

Note: In his first game as a Seahawk, D.J. Reed had 2 pass breakups, including an interception on the 49ers second possession. (box score)

Of course, y’all already knew that part ...


The San Francisco years

This isn’t a history lesson.

It’s more of a “this is who he was coming out of college” (via video) coupled with a bit of “this is how the 49ers squandered his talent.”

Video

SF stats and usage

Reed was selected by Santa Clara Adjacent in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He started 2 games his rookie year and appeared in a total of 31 games with the 49ers during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

2018:

  • 5 games at Free Safety; 1 at Strong Safety; 5 at Slot Corner
  • Targeted 15 times on 208 coverage snaps (73 of which came in his first 2 games)
  • Allowed 14 receptions for 113 yards (8.1 average) and 2 touchdowns
  • Passer rating when targeted was 137.6

2019:

  • 1 game at LCB; 2 at RCB; 8 at SCB; 1 at Free Safety
  • Targeted 13 times on 90 coverage snaps; allowed 8 receptions for 107 yards (13.4 avg.)
  • 1 INT and 2 PBUs
  • 113.3

Years 1+2 Combined:

  • 13 games in the slot; 3 games outside; 7 at safety
  • QBs had a passer rating of 135.1 when throwing Reed’s direction

2020 Redux

Having hit the ground running with his performance against the Niners in Week 8 of the 2020 season, Reed wasted no time endearing himself to the 12s.

Reed started 8 of the 10 games he appeared in last season.

Seattle’s Week 15 game at Washington was Reed’s signature moment. He was targeted 10 times on 61 coverage snaps, but allowed only 4 receptions for a measly 15 yards (3.8 average), with 2 pass breakups, including an interception.

Dwayne Haskins’ passer rating when targeting Reed that day was 8.3.

Eight. Point. Three.


Fast forward to 2021

As spring turned to summer, most 12s were excited to see what D.J. Reed could do over the course of an entire season. He was one of the presumed starters heading into camp and spending most of camp on the sidelines didn’t impact that at all.

Unfortunately, none of the other corners that the Seahawks had on their roster claimed the LEFT cornerback spot while Reed was on the sidelines.

Naturally, the coaches decided to put Reed at LCB to start the season, even though LCB is objectively Reed’s worst position.

As we found out last Sunday.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

On back-to-back Minnesota possessions to end the first half.

NFL: SEP 26 Seahawks at Vikings

Rewind the tape ...

Given the timing, some of you might think this article is an overreaction to what could best be described as “a bad day at the office” by Mr. Reed last Sunday.

It’s not.

I have actually been pondering what I am about to share since before the season started. Since August 31st, in fact.

Why August 31st?

Because that’s the day that THIS happened (video link, 2:07 mark):

Reporter: How do you feel about the competition on (the right) side, with Tre and everything? Do you expect to be the starter?

D.J. Reed: I mean, today they moved me at left corner, so Tre’s at right. So I mean, that’s what I was told today. So for me, you know, I just ...

My hearing kind of shut off at that point as my mind and spirit cried out in unison: “What the ever-living f—k!?!?”

As I wrote in an article that went live on September 10th:

(D.J. Reed’s announcement) led to me turning off my computer for a few days.

I still visited the site and posted comments from my phone, but no computer = no FTR articles and ... that was probably a good thing.

I followed that over-share with this:

Optimism is for suckers but pessimism just plain sucks.

I choose optimism.

For now.

Amusingly, and perhaps quite stupidly, I’m still optimistic. But I’m not stupid and I’m not blind and, well ...

I have stats.


FTR’s hypothesis

D.J. Reed has appeared in 48 NFL games, including playoffs, across 3+ seasons. PFF says he played Left Cornerback in exactly 6 of them. Six games is a pretty small sample.

But it’s enough for a hypothesis.

D.J. Reed sucks on the left side and needs to be moved to his natural position on the right side immediately.

Yeah, I know ...

As a hypothesis, that’s phrased really poorly.

I shall now direct your attention to the first sentence in this here article. You know, the one where I stated that, “Science was not my best subject in school.”

Allow me to also direct your attention to the glorious 100-word, single sentence “paragraph” that followed that initial statement. More specifically, allow me to draw your attention to these 6 words:

“This here data proves my hypothesis.”


FTR’s data

Here are the relevant numbers from all 6 of Reed’s games at LCB in the NFL:

And here are the numbers from his 8 NFL games at RCB:

Raise your hand if you noticed the 84.2-point difference in the passer rating Reed allows based on whether he’s at RCB (45.4) or LCB (129.6).

Raise your other hand if you also noticed that he (a) has not allowed any touchdowns when he plays RCB, and (b) has not gotten any interceptions when he plays LCB.


The counter-argument

Admittedly, there is a flaw in my hypothesis. At least theoretically.

If the Seahawks move D.J. Reed to RCB ... who plays LCB?

Good question.

Let’s take a quick look at the other corners on the active roster with the corners listed in order of experience (based on games played).

Tre Flowers

Including playoffs, Tre Flowers has played in 49 games. Per PFF, he has played RCB in all of them. During Flowers’ best season (2019), he allowed a passer rating of 93.8. Through 3 games this season, he’s sitting at 139.6.

Sidney Jones

Sidney Jones is the next man up, right? Jones has played the CB position in 26 NFL games: 11 at LCB (252 coverage snaps), 8 at RCB (164), and 7 in the slot (207). His passer ratings allowed are 109.3 (LCB), 62.8 (RCB), and 87.1 (Slot).

Blessuan Austin

#Blessed has taken defensive snaps in 18 career games; 17 of them at RCB; 1 at LCB (his rookie season). Over 606 snaps at RCB, Austin has allowed a passer rating of 98.8 compared to a 102.7 rating over 51 snaps at LCB.

John Reid

Reid played 145 total defensive snaps his rookie year (2020). 86 of them were coverage snaps - as a slot corner. He allowed 8 receptions on 10 targets for 103 yards with 1 touchdown. Opposing QBs had a combined passer rating of 142.9.


Process of elimination

If we’re talking about LCB then Tre Flowers and John Reid get eliminated.

Flowers because it’s well past time to eliminate him from consideration as a starter on this team. I mean, the Seattle coaches have never really rolled the dice with him on the left side (at least not according to PFF) ... why would they start now?

John Reid gets eliminated because he was used exclusively as a slot corner by the Houston Texans and with no contradictory information, we trust history and prior usage.

__________

That leaves Blessuan Austin and the former Husky, Sidney Jones.

#Blessed has allowed a lower passer rating (98.8 vs. 109.3), but Jones has 5x the coverage snaps at LCB (252 vs. 51) and 11x the number of games played (11 vs. 1).


Decision time

Personally, I lean toward Jones, but I know that at least part of the reason is that I’m a Husky myself and tend to favor fellow Dawgs.

But ...

Despite being drafted a year after Jones, #Blessed has more defensive snaps (1.069 vs. 946) and more coverage snaps (657 vs. 643). And the difference between the passer rating he’s allowed at LCB vs. RCB is only 3.9 points whereas Jones’ difference is 46.5 points.

I would be a bit more nervous, but I could (probably) be talked into #Blessed.

Come game day, I think it comes down to which one is healthy and/or which one “wins” the weekly battle(s) at practice.


Conclusion (and a poll)

Have I proven my hypothesis? That’s for you to decide. But raise your hand if you want to see D.J. Reed lining up at LCB and Tre Flowers lining up at RCB for the next x-number of weeks?

(FTR looks around the room and sees no hands in the air)

__________

Let’s end with a poll.

Assuming Flowers is out of the equation, which combination of outside corners would you prefer to see take the field for Seattle in Santa Clara on Sunday (and beyond)?

Poll

Assuming Flowers is out of the equation, which combination of outside corners would you prefer to see take the field for Seattle in Santa Clara on Sunday (and beyond)?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Option A: D.J. at RCB (45.4) and Sidney at LCB (109.3)
    (693 votes)
  • 18%
    Option B: D.J. at RCB (45.4) and #Blessed at LCB (102.7)
    (178 votes)
  • 5%
    Option C: D.J. at LCB (129.6) and Sidney at RCB (62.8)
    (51 votes)
  • 1%
    Option D: D.J. at LCB (129.6) and #Blessed at RCB (98.8)
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    Option E: Some other combination
    (44 votes)
976 votes total Vote Now