Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed will one day be inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame and be mentioned as perhaps the greatest at his position in league history. The Ravens have been blessed to have had his services alongside arguably the best linebacker much less the greatest player ever in NFL history, Ray Lewis.
However, it is beginning to appear that Reed has lost a significant portion of his previous skills and now may only be thought of as the team's centerfielder, picking off opponent's errant passes. His three interceptions this year are second on the team (Cary Williams-4)and his 35 tackles are 6th on the team.
A couple of weeks ago, Reed admitted he was playing with a torn labrum, which got the team in a boatload of trouble for not officially placing him on their Injury List. Whether or not this is some sort of exaggeration, his performance on the field shows that something is not right physically with him. Either Reed is legitimately injured, or his skills have diminished to the point of clearly showing in his tackling skills.
Reed has consistently missed tackles and the ones he does make, he always uses his shoulder or dives low to upend the ball carrier. Whenever he does try to use his arms, he can only slow down the opponent until another teammate appears to gang tackle him.
His coverage skills are suspect, but then again in Ed's defense, he should not be one-on-one with any receiver, as that takes away from his ball-hawking skills that made his reputation in the first place. Unfortunately, over the past year or two, Reed has seemed to arrive at the ball after the reception much more often than prior. In the past, that led to the game-changing interceptions that helped this defense carry the team.
Now, Reed is missing those opportunities and dropping balls that he usually never drops if they are anywhere near him. Just this past Sunday, Reed dropped one and perhaps two balls in his grasp that could have easily turned a close game into a blowout. His one pick helped the team, but the other one(s) might have sealed the victory a lot earlier than the game's final minutes.
Don't get me wrong. Reed is still one of the most feared defenders in the game. Just ask opposing QB's, who still locate Reed's positioning prior to snapping the ball. However, he is not having the impact on the game that he once did and teams are not only not afraid to go deep on him, but target the guys he is forced to cover.
Should the Ravens consider any changes regarding Reed in the defensive backfield? Of course not, but the issues are now clearly obvious. Hopefully, his injury does not get any worse as the loss of both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb has already crippled the team's defense.
The Ravens desperately need Ed Reed as the final line in the team's defense. He can still take the ball the length of the field and at this current pace would have six interceptions for the full season, which would still put him among the best in the league. The loss of Reed for any time would severely hurt the team, regardless of his lessening skills. Let's all hope he can be the best one-armed safety in the league through the rest of the 2012 season.