In the slot, Packers rookie Jayden Reed feeling like he belongs

Second-round receiver fitting in nicely during early stages of training camp


GREEN BAY – Rookie Jayden Reed is picking up this slot receiver gig pretty quickly.

Not that there were a ton of doubts, because he has the speed, shiftiness and smarts NFL teams look for in that spot, and the Packers drafted him in the second round out of Michigan State with this role in mind.

But the fact is the vast majority of Reed's 114 catches for 1,662 yards and 15 touchdowns over his final two college seasons came on the outside. Reed hasn't actually played the slot regularly since his freshman season at Western Michigan, before he transferred to Michigan State.

Regardless, he's had a blast in his first two training camp practices in Green Bay as a slot guy, running inside routes and jet motions, and the early prognosis is he could become a key weapon for the Jordan Love-led offense in 2023.

"I actually like it, working with space, being able to attack guys, step on their toes and make a move," Reed said following Thursday's practice.
"It's really helping me out a lot to be able to work in space. I haven't been able to do that in a long time and I'm enjoying it right now."

He's also producing. In the first snap of Thursday's red-zone work, he ran a quick post and snagged Love's throw between linebacker De'Vondre Campbell and cornerback Jaire Alexander for a touchdown. (After which, the defense pretty much controlled the red zone and won the day.)

Earlier, he took a toss on an end-around, outflanking the defense and appearing to gain an opportunity to score on a long run, though it can be difficult to tell without live tackling allowed.

"I'm going to score every time, you know what I mean?" Reed joked. "Ja said he was going to catch me. He had a little speed. I felt him on the side running me down. But I'm looking to score every play."

At 5-11, 187 with 4.45 speed, Reed is the type of athlete the Packers have been looking for to bring something different to the slot in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense.

They've tried Tavon Austin as a free agent, Amari Rodgers as a third-round draft pick, and Randall Cobb as an experienced option for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The first two didn't work out as hoped, and then Cobb wasn't re-signed after last season, following his longtime QB Rodgers to the Jets, as the Packers have skewed young at the perimeter positions.

So now it's Reed's turn, and while expectations always should be tempered for rookies, he has meaningful guidance to help him along.

Fellow receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs can tell him what it's like to play as a rookie, and all the ups and downs that come along with it. Plus, veteran defender Keisean Nixon is lining up across from him frequently as the slot corner and challenging him every chance he gets.

"I told him as soon as he got here … I'd be on his (rear) every day," Nixon said. "He's got to get me better and I'm going to get him better. He'll be a good player."

Nixon can share some advice with Reed in the return game, too, with the rookie a candidate to return punts for Rich Bisaccia's special teams. He returned three punts for TDs in college (one at WMU, two at MSU) and had two other long returns called back via penalties.

Those skills might not be on display until the preseason games, but the goal now will be to repeat plays like the touchdown Thursday from Love. Reed had a choice route from the slot, had to read the defense and make the right move. Love's throw was right on target.

It was a sign the mental side of the game is coming along, which can happen at different paces for rookies. Reed said both Watson and Doubs have emphasized to him that job one is getting the playbook down, because doing so allows a player's speed to match the game speed. His read on the TD was an easy one, and he made it without any hesitation.

"I'm not going to lie, it's getting to me a lot quicker," Reed said of processing the play calls. "In OTAs, I was a little cloudy about the plays, and now I'm just getting it much faster.

"He'll call it, I know exactly where I'm supposed to go, and it's just coming to me. The more reps you get, the easier it gets. So I think I'm in a good spot right now."


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