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Knowledge, mentality, trust add up to big-play prowess for Jayden Reed

Packers’ rookie receiver setting impressive pace

WR Jayden Reed
WR Jayden Reed

GREEN BAY – Jayden Reed can laugh a little about it now.

But it wasn't so funny when he arrived in the spring as a rookie second-round draft pick and he felt a bit, well, intimidated. Not by a coach or any veteran teammates in the locker room. By the playbook, of all things.

"I didn't even know if I was ever going to be able to figure it out," Reed joked at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "But to be here now, I'm just grateful I was able to become more confident in that aspect."

Nine games into his rookie season, the former Michigan State receiver hasn't just learned the plays, he's making big ones.

With a 35-yard TD catch and 46-yard reception to begin the final drive last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Reed now has seven receptions of 30-plus yards on the year. That's already more than any Packers rookie receiver has made in a full season since 2000, and eight games still remain.

Those seven catches for 30-plus also lead all NFL rookies this year and are tied for second across the entire league, with Philly's A.J. Brown and New Orleans' Rasheed Shahid. The only player with more thus far in 2023 is Miami's Tyreek Hill, with nine.

"That's Jordan Love, man," Reed said of his big-play success. "He trusts me. It starts with that. His trust with me has helped me make plays. I appreciate that from him.

"Most things in the offense ends with trust. If everybody can trust everybody to do their job, you'll get good results. That's what I've learned."

Reed feels he's earned that trust by showing up ready to work every week and by asking the right questions, which has helped build his relationship and rapport with Love.

It was on display on that 46-yarder late in the Pittsburgh game, which was in essence a broken, improvised play. Reed's deep route down the middle seam was bracketed by two safeties, and Love was flushed a little to his left in the pocket with pressure in his face.

As Reed broke off his somewhat doomed deep route, Love saw open space near the boundary. Reed never took his eyes off Love and understood his "shot clock," figuring the ball had to come out with the pressure bearing down. So when the QB let it fly he was already headed to the right place.

"Pretty much we just saw it the same way," Reed said. "We've never ran it like that in camp or anything. It was something we mutually felt on the same play, and he just put it to where only I could make a play, and I made it.

"That's just him. I go back to that trust thing. He trusts me to make the play, so I've got to go make it."

That chunk of yardage pushed Reed over 400 receiving yards on the season, to a team-leading 417. His 28 catches rank third on the squad and his four TDs rank second, behind Romeo Doubs' six.

The yardage total puts him on pace to surpass teammate Christian Watson's 611 receiving yards from last year, which was the most by a Packers rookie since James Jones' 676 back in 2007.

If Reed can keep this up, he'll also have a shot at the second and third highest marks for a rookie receiver in team history, James Lofton's 818 in 1978 and Sterling Sharpe's 791 in 1988. The club rookie record is 1,231 by Billy Howton back in 1952, in just 12 games.

"I just really love his mentality," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I think he's wired the right way mentally, in terms of just how he attacks it. Not that it's always going to perfect, but when he does make a mistake, there's no flinch to him. He just keeps it moving and he doesn't get rattled.

"He doesn't allow one play to affect the next and we expect him to continue to grow and develop. He's far from a finished product, but I think that he's got a very bright future."

So does his quarterback.

"I think he's just playing really fast," Love said. "He's not thinking, he knows what he's doing, he knows where he needs to get to."

Reed admittedly wasn't so sure about that six months ago, and as LaFleur noted, he's still got plenty to work on. But the better he learns the system moving forward, the more he can focus on the little details that'll help reduce mistakes and sharpen his game.

"I'm just happy that I'm becoming more comfortable in the offense and understanding it more," Reed said. "I'm just getting a better feel for alignments, assignments, everything. That's been my main thing that I've been proud of that I've accomplished so far.

"Because when I first got here, man, I struggled with the playbook. Really bad."

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