Since making his Seahawks debut midway through the season, cornerback D.J. Reed has made himself an invaluable part of the team thanks to his versatility.
Reed, whom the Seahawks claimed this summer after he was waived as injured by San Francisco, made his Seattle debut against his former team earlier this year, playing the nickel corner spot in place of an injured Ugo Amadi. After two games in that role, Reed started at left cornerback when Shaquill Griffin was out, then moved to right cornerback with Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar both sidelined by injuries. Reed, a 2018 fifth-round pick of the 49ers, has also handled punt return duties in the past two games, and has returned kickoffs at times as well.
But for all of his versatility, Reed is looking more and more like he might be somebody the Seahawks can't take out of the lineup regardless of who's available, and that was never more evident than in Sunday's 20-15 win at Washington.
With Reed frequently covering Washington's leading receiver, Terry McLaurin, he was targeted several times, and more often than not, the ball ended up on the ground when it came his direction. In addition to a first-half interception, Reed also had three passes defensed, including a pass breakup in the end zone on a pass intended for McLaurin, as well as six tackles. It was just the latest bigtime performance for a player who, at 5-foot-9, hardly fits the profile of an outside cornerback in Seattle's defense, but who is proving that talent and an oversized chip on the shoulder can sometimes trump measurables.
"I love it out there," Reed said. "That's what I play my whole life, played it in college at a high level. Being 5-9, it's a statement for me, because corners that are 5-9 are not corners anymore, they're playing the slot, so I feel like I've got to make a statement."
Having been a fifth-round pick despite a standout career at Kansas State, and having being exposed to waivers by the 49ers, who were hoping to stash him for the season with a torn pectoral muscle—had he gone unclaimed, Reed would have reverted to San Francisco's injured reserve list and missed the entire season—Reed has plenty of motivation to prove himself now that he's getting this chance.
"I'll have a chip on my shoulder forever," Reed said. "For real, it's heavy. Honestly, I came into the game pretty angry, pissed off just because. I knew they were going to try me, I knew I was guarding 17 (McLaurin). I came into the game with that chip on my shoulder and I just let it out, talking, all that, I had fun out there."
After another strong performance from Reed, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the newcomer has a good chance to hang onto that job for at least another week despite Flowers and perhaps Dunbar returning from their injuries.
"He's playing good football," Carroll said. "I like all the activity and the consistency that he's shown, and he's tackling pretty well. He's just a playmaker. He has the lead to hold that spot at least going into this week. We should get Tre back this week. Quinton practiced all last week. He should be in better shape for this week, we'll see how that all works out. We're getting stronger."
Carroll considering Reed for that starting spot, even with Dunbar and Flowers back, is a reminder that while he and the Seahawks have preferences on measurables at certain positions, exceptions will be made for the right player.
"He's just a different style player," Carroll said. "His feet are just lightning fast and his athleticism is just—he's so sudden. He can make up for—he has to stay out of situations where he gets pushed around or shoved around. He's 183 pounds, but he knows how to do it. I'm really fired up about his play. Everybody knows about the long-armed corners and all that stuff, that's what I've always wanted, but way back in the day at NC State we had Perry Williams—you guys don't remember him, he played for the Giants for a long time—he was beautiful, 6-2. Then we had Donnie LeGrande, he was about 5-7. Both those guys played back in the day. That's where all of our corner play, the source of it, started. They come in different shapes and sizes. We just have to be open to it and not be stubborn that everybody has to be like this mold. It couldn't be more obvious. Look at our quarterback."
Reed thriving with his new team is just another example of a savvy move by general manager John Schneider and Seattle's front office, which recognized when San Francisco waived him, a talented player was available if the Seahawks had the patience to keep him on their 80-man roster in camp, then wait for him to get healthy while he started the season on the non-football injury list.
"This is John Schneider working his magic," Carroll said. "I can't tell you enough, John has done this so many times. He realized that there was going to be a big loop in there where we weren't going to have him available. He's a really good player; we could take him off their roster and put him on our roster and wait it out with the thought that, if we needed him down the stretch, he would be available as a nickel and potentially other places. We really didn't think about him being a starting corner when we brought him in, he thought he would be a great nickel. He played terrific at the nickel spot, and so we have that in him as well. I just think this is John just projecting and looking towards the future. Instead of, 'I need a guy right now and I can't bet on a guy that is going to have to sit for two months.' He's done it again. I think this team and how we put it together, John deserves so much credit, because he just had great vision for all of this."
Reed, meanwhile, is embracing every moment of this season, knowing that if not another team putting in a waiver claim, he would be on San Francisco's injured reserve list, unable to play even after recovering from his injury.
"With this torn pec, I tell myself sometimes, 'I wasn't supposed to be playing this year,'" he said. " If nobody would have picked me up—it was the Bills, Texans and Seahawks that showed interest—I would be at home right now and nobody would know what I'm capable of. It's crazy how God works, because I knew I was capable of this, I did it in college, and I knew I could do it in the league."
The best photos from Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Football Team at FedExField. Fueled by Nesquik.