He’s got great vision.
These are just a handful of things special teams coordinator George Stewart had to say about rookie wide receiver/kick returner Joe Reed when he was the podium prior to Tuesday’s practice.
Reed was drafted in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft because the team needed to find an answer to their lackluster kick return numbers over the years. In the last three seasons, the Bolts have three punts returned for scores, but zero on kickoffs. Enter Reed, who took back five kickoffs over his four-year career at the University of Virginia.
At 6’0 and 220-plus pounds, Reed is on the bigger side of the size spectrum for NFL kick returners. Stewart got a good laugh when he admitted how surprised he was when he finally got to see Reed in person, which wasn’t until everyone reported late last month.
#Chargers ST coordinator George Stewart on seeing Joe Reed for the first time: "My goodness he's a big return man."— Michael Peterson (@ZoneTracks) August 24, 2020
Reed only ran a 4.50 in the forty at the combine, but he doesn’t have to rely on pure speed to outrun opponents to the end zone. On top of excellent start-and-stop ability, Reed is able to use his powerful running to break arm tackles and fight through contact when he isn’t able to beat opposing angles.
However, the ability to trust a player to go back there and field kicks is the number one trait he looks for in a returner. As you all may have seen in 2019, former second-team All-Pro return man Desmond King couldn’t consistently handle kicks, although he did return a punt against the Broncos in Costa Mesa. Due to his evident case of the “yips,” Lynn and the staff decided they needed to find more bodies to fill that role.
Reed is not guaranteed to win the kickoff job as a rookie, but it’s tough to imagine he wouldn’t. The former Cavalier graduated as the only player in CFB history to record a kick average above 26.0 yards while also recording over 3,000 career yards.
Thursday’s scrimmage at SoFi Stadium will be the first time Reed and the other players will get the chance to field and return kicks against live coverage.