Safety Justin Reid was one of the biggest steals of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Houston Texans managed to get a 1st round talent out of Stanford, all the way in the 3rd round. His rookie season was extremely strong, amassing 88 tackles, 3 INTs, 10 PBUs, and much more. His impact on the field is masterful, but he's quickly become a leader on and off the field too. He's got to be one of the smartest players on the team, if not the smartest. In this article I will be breaking down his amazing rookie season. Part two of this series will be out Thursday and review his 2019 season, so be on the lookout for that too!
Reviewing Texans Justin Reid's 2018 Season
Coverage - Single High
Justin Reid is one of the most versatile safeties in the game. He can play all over the field as a 2 deep safety, in the box, in the nickel even, but the Texans want him to play as the single high deep coverage safety. We've been transitioning to a more Cover 1 and Cover 3 heavy defense. And in my opinion, the single high free safety is the single most important position in this scheme. Not a godly pass rusher, not a lockdown CB, not a field general LB, but a single high safety who can erase mistakes of others, and create turnovers.
When I originally wanted to write this article, I wasn't entirely confident in Reid's ability to be a great single high safety. We played him in the box a good amount last year, and he wasn't making a lot of plays when he was in single high. But, diving into his 2018 and 2019 tape, and seeing more snaps of him as a single high, I've gained the utmost confidence in his game. Lets dive into what makes him so good.
As a single high safety you need to have great range, instincts and IQ. J Reid has all of the above and then some. His range is really fun to watch as he can get to some throws he has no business getting too. I wouldn't label him the next Earl Thomas, but his speed is elite. Look at how much ground he covers on this play. He goes from center field on the hashmark, all the way to the sideline. This is absolutely absurd range that only the top safeties have in their toolbox. This was honestly the one play that pointed me to believing in his range the most. It was perfect, he broke on the ball as soon as the QB started his throwing motion, and he got to the ball with perfect timing, just barely dropping the INT.
More great range on this play. As I've mentioned, the single high safety should be able to erase mistakes from other defenders. You can see at the top of the screen the CB gets caught flat footed and gets burned. However J Reid is already reading this and runs over to cover for the CB's mistake. He takes away the deep throw and possible TD, and even though the Redskins completed a pass, it could've been a lot worse.
It's important to read the QB's eyes, but also the routes in front of you, because QB's will try to trick you. Reid is watching Andrew Luck's eyes at first, then takes a quick glance to his left and sees Eric Ebron running open down the seam. He takes off and closes on the throw so quickly, then delivers a big hit to knock the ball loose. Great reading and reacting by Reid to prevent a TD.
One more great play here, Reid is all over this but somehow gets flagged. He starts off in a two high look, but transitions to single high. He has a really quick back pedal and his transition to running full speed is smooth. He stays on top of the route and has a near INT as a result. I don't get how you can throw a flag on this play, but it's a great example of Reid being the last line of defense, and more than holding his own.
Coverage - Two High
As great as Reid is in single high, the Texans will look to mix up their coverages and play two high formations as well. Reid excels in this and is never caught out of position. On this play against the Cowboys he reads when Dak is going to through the ball, and breaks on it super quick. As the ball is tipped Reid lays out for it, showing great effort and that desire for the ball. He's really just a ball magnet and is always in position to take advantage of mistakes.
Reid got another INT in two high against the Dolphins. Yet again he does great to read the QB and gets gifted an INT because he is in perfect position. Good ol' Brock Osweiler with the overthrow and Reid with the pick. You have to play perfect against Reid, or else he will make you pay.
This play puts Reid in a really tough situation, but he still manages to make the perfect play. He has to deal with two deep routes to his left and right, so he stays disciplined instead of guessing which one the QB will throw to. He remains in between both WRs and waits for Mayfield to throw it. Once he does, Reid breaks extremely quickly and shows great speed to get to the sideline and force the incompletion with a big hit. Crazy play and you can see Jarvis Landry give Reid props, even he couldn't believe it.
Coverage - Box/Nickel
Reid is a true do it all safety, and I really love his ability to play in the box. I personally think this is where Reid will make the biggest impact, as he is closer to the ball and will make more plays. I like him as a single high, but they just didn't test him that much. If he's closer to the action, he can make a bigger impact.
His coverage skills against TEs is top notch. I'm sure we all remember this amazing 101 yard pick 6 that Reid had against the Redskins. He's covering TE Jordan Reed and runs the damn route for him. His athleticism takes over and you're not catching Reid in a foot race. He saves a touchdown and puts one on the board for us instead. Hands down one of the plays of the year.
Another play that really stood out to me was in his first ever game as a Texan. Vs the Patriots, we trusted him to cover TE Rob Gronkowski one-on-one, and Reid rose to the occasion. Reid is in off man coverage and once he sees Gronk break, he does so as well and covers ground so quickly. He dives for the PBU showing great effort and times it perfectly. To be able to do this as a rookie against the top TE in the NFL is insane.
As great as Reid is in the box and locking down TEs, he showed he can play nickel from time to time, and hold his own. This play is great for any blitzes we may run in the future. Tyrann Mathieu is initially in the nickel, but creeps down and ends up blitzing. This leaves the slot WR wide open, but Reid is covering him from over top. He comes down but has to run through a bunch of traffic to go cover the WR on the crossing route. He takes a perfect angle and gets to the WR just in time. Although he made the catch, Reid tracks him down and tackles him for a two yard gain. If he can cover these short routes out of the slot, it will help us run these blitzes as we can disguise them really well.
So we've seen how great J Reid is in coverage, but he's also one of the best tackling Safeties in the NFL. He consistently makes big hits, limits big plays from getting bigger and also saves numerous touchdowns.
Look at these big hits that force incompletions. Reid can come from anywhere on the field and will shock you. He may look a bit smaller in stature, but he packs a serious PUNCH. Excited to see him lay more of these big hits now that his shoulder is healed.
He's also great in the box where he can make TFLs or blitz and mess up the QB's timing. On the first play he reads it the entire way, and knows exactly where to go. He runs out for outside contain and makes a big time tackle. On the next play he times his blitz nicely and dips under the poor TE trying to block him. He barely misses the sack but forces Dak to dump it off inaccurately. Love seeing Reid being used like this.
I've also lost count as to how many TDs Reid has saved us, but it's ridiculous. If you think we gave up a lot of points now, you don't even want to imagine our defense without Reid.
This first play was crazy effort by Reid, never giving up on the play. We had a defender in perfect position to stop the play, but Callaway caught it somehow. Reid doesn't give up and chases him all the way down to the goal line, and strips it out at the last possible second. A TD seemed like a foregone conclusion, but Reid saved the damn day.
This last play was just insane effort yet again. The entire defense gets tricked to the left, where the play is actually going to the right. Reid turns around and shows off ridiculous speed to get back into the play. He couldn't have took a better angle and somehow stopped this play from being more than it could've been. Reid is like our safety net. No matter who messes up, he'll be there to catch them.
Justin Reid's 2018 season was one to be remembered. He came in as a 3rd round rookie and outplayed any expectations for him. He was the best safety on a team with Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson, and Andre Hal. His mix of great coverage, impact tackling and limitless versatility will make him one of the best safeties in the NFL for years to come. His rookie season couldn't have been more promising, and while his 2019 season wasn't amazing, it was looked at as a down year, when it shouldn't have. It's hard to repeat such a ridiculous 2018 season, when Reid played through an awful shoulder injury all season. Part 2 coming out Thursday will look at that 2019 season, how he played, and what we can expect in 2020!