"We've had some issues with the deep ball," Ryan told reporters Thursday regarding the team's troubles with opponents deep passes. "Let them throw it now."
From that simple statement (and a few others that Ryan made about his new safety) it is plain that the Jets coach feels very good about adding a player who was a key component of his halcyon days as the defensive coordinator with Baltimore. Reed and Ryan were together from 2002 to 2008 with the Ravens, during which time Reed won the defensive player of the year honors in 2004. Reed was in his prime and as a key part of the Ravens defense when Ryan ascended to the coordinator's role in 2005. Even so, Ryan emphasized that the signing had "nothing to do with sentiment."
This past off-season, Reed was finally available as a free agent. Ryan hoped to add Reed, but economics conspired against the idea. The Jets financial picture precluded adding Reed and so after winning his second Super Bowl ring with Baltimore, Reed took the best deal he could find from Houston while the Ravens stood by.
At the price, Reed was hailed as a savior of the Texans secondary. Interim head coach Wade Phillips said Thursday that while he wishes Reed well, there were extremely high hopes for Reed in Houston which never materialized. When asked if the Texans expected more from Ed Reed, Phillips was candid. "We all thought he was going to be the J.J. Watt of the secondary," Phillips said. "It didn't work out that way."
So what way will it work out in New York? Is Reed expected to fill the same role he was expected to in Houston?
Not at all. When asked about how the reps would be divvied up, Ryan said that Ed Reed will not start and that he expects his young defensive backs to still have a large role with the team. More important than counting reps, Ryan said he was curious to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the future Hall of Famer on his first day and see how he fared. "We put him in some defenses to see what he could remember a little bit, with his partner out there Landry, and here we go," Ryan said of Reed's first practice. "It's like he hadn't missed a beat."
Reed agreed it was great to get back into a familiar scheme. "It felt really good because I do know the system," Reed said. "Dawan Landry and I have a lot of history together and he makes it a lot easier for me to come in and play right now. That was the biggest thing that I was thinking about once waivers cleared, where can I go that fits me."
As far as what role he gets, Reed acknowledged that he is coming in late this week and is happy to be playing for his old coach and will do whatever it takes. "They had a good thing going here before I came. I didn’t plan on rocking boats," said Reed. "If Coach (Ryan) wants me to start, I’ll start. If he wants me to play on Sub, Dime, whatever it may be, I will do that. If he wants me to rush kicks, if he wants me to run on kickoff, I’ll do that. I’m here to help the team win."
Ryan knows that Reed isn't a long-term answer and accordingly doesn't want to stunt the growth of the team's young players, but knows based on the team's results there's room for improvement. "We have some young talent, some ascending talent," Ryan said. "With us, we can play everybody. We'll play three safeties, two safeties, one safety. We'll do all kinds of different things. We have multiple personnel groupings."
If there is one thing that Ryan prizes more than anything in a defensive player, it is flexibility. So it is easy to see why Ryan loves the dynamic nature that Ed Reed will bring to the Jets safety spot and the secondary overall. No matter how close he is to the end of his career, stop and consider that Ed Reed will likely be playing Nickel and/or Dime packages for the Jets and think about what kind of impact that could have with a defense that is already as good as the Jets are.
It is that flexibility, that willingness of Ryan to see the talent available and put his players in a spot to succeed that will suit Reed with the Jets -- and might have been the problem with Houston. In New York, Reed won't be asked to save everything and be everywhere, he'll be paired with three former first round cornerbacks and one veteran safety who learned the scheme from Ed Reed himself along with a willing group of athletic young safeties already in awe of Reed.
Josh Bush didn't hide his hope to learn from Reed. "I said, ‘Mr. Reed, how’re you doing?" Bush later recounted. "I’m your shadow.’"
When asked how Reed responded? "He said, 'No doubt.' He was all for it. He’s a good guy."
For the Jets Reed will likely be asked to play centerfield initially and work to stymie opposing quarterbacks. This will allow some of the team's other safeties and corners to do things that they are best at, be it play the run, rush the passer or play in the slot.
Many NFL pundits have called Reed washed up after watching him play this season with Houston. Ryan disagreesm calling such claims a "false statement" and that he believes Reed to be in "excellent shape." After going back through footage of Reed's play with Houston this year, Ryan said he liked the way the safety moved, but didn't offer anything about Reed's use in Phillips' system.
Conversely, Reed appreciates Ryan's vote of confidence. "[To] hear the excitement that he had and felt for me as the player that I am with all the criticism that has been out there .. was awesome. It feels good. You can tell I’m happy, all smiles. I’m just ready to play football."
With the Jets, Reed will get every chance to play. Ed Reed might not still be able to hold a whole defense together, but given the opportunity to play alongside a decent secondary and an incredible front seven, Reed will be within his comfort zone and get the opportunity to freelance on occasion. Something Rex Ryan likes in his players, especially from a future Canton inductee. Reed isn't the same player he was in 2004, but he certainly can add value to the Jets secondary. Regarded as smart, tough and relentless, Reed might be one of the best safeties to ever play the game. Even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in awe of him. He knows where opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks don't want him to be and over his career has confounded opponents because of it.
This was an opportunity that was hard for both sides to say no to. On playing for Ryan, Reed was elated. "[It is] awesome, man. I don’t think either one of us was willing to pass this chance up. It just fit."
The Jets will get to show the world how well this will fit this Sunday.