Ed Reed was released by the Texans today, nearly eight months after signing with them in March. He was presumably cut because he has been either hurt or unproductive on the field, and outspoken off of it, noting publicly that the team was “outplayed and out-coached” after their recent loss to Arizona. Predictably, it took roughly 0.00000001 seconds for the “Ed Reed to the Patriots” rumors to churn up, and no matter how many waiver-wire positions happen to be in the Patriots’ way from having a chance at Reed, or the lingering question marks about his health, Pats fans are adamant that the former Miami Hurricane will soon be packing his bags for New England.
Their reasoning is that current Patriots safety Steve Gregory is hurt, and Reed would slide into his spot perfectly.
Yet forgetting both of the very real reasons why it probably won’t happen (that I just listed above), here is one more simple reason: Ed Reed would be a redundant component of the Patriots’ defense. Why? Because New England already has a safety who plays Ed Reed’s role. His name is Devin McCourty.
Check out this photo from a week 13 game last season (when Reed was still with the Ravens) between Baltimore and the Steelers:
That’s Ed Reed circled in yellow on the right side of the picture. He’s very much off of the line of scrimmage, worrying himself with Pittsburgh’s passing game.
Now, look at where Devin McCourty was lined up in the Patriots’ week nine matchup from this season, also against the Steelers:
See that? McCourty is in the same basic place that Reed was. Now, look at what Ed Reed did on the actual play in terms of where he went in coverage:
Notice how he drops back so far that he isn’t even on-screen for most of the GIF. (He’s number 20, seen in the lower left corner backing out, and he only returns near the end of the play when the tackle has already been made.)
Now watch McCourty operate (he’s number 32 in the top left of the screen).
Just like Reed, McCourty’s first step is backwards, and into coverage.
The point of this (as you can guess) is to illustrate exactly how similar the natural roles of Reed and McCourty really are. They both play centerfield in the free safety role. McCourty is also nearly a decade younger than Reed and is clearly faster at this point. And while no one has better instincts than Reed, you can’t expect him to slide into the Patriots’ starting lineup.
His role is occupied by the talented McCourty, a fully capable free safety who had five interceptions last season and is effective again this year in pass coverage. And Reed clearly won’t fill in as a run-stopping safety (which was more Gregory’s role), since he’s never had the job in his entire career.
Perhaps he could be brought into the Patriots squad as a backup, or specialist in certain situations, but don’t try to argue that New England could run an effective scheme using both McCourty and Reed as their only safeties, because it simply won’t work.
The Patriots already have enough problems stopping the run without Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo (they’ve allowed more than 100 yards rushing in every game since Wilfork tore his achilles), they don’t need two pass-coverage safeties in the starting lineup at the same time.