George Kittle missed Friday’s practice for precautionary reasons. His absence opened the door for tight end Jordan Reed, who this week returned to full practices after missing the first couple weeks to work his way into full sessions. He took advantage of his additional opportunities.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who spent one season with Reed in Washington, saw the benefit of added work for the oft-injured tight end, but tempered his praise.
“I thought there was some good things, some bad things,” Shanahan told reporters after Friday’s session. “He did as many reps as we’ve done today, so it was good to get a lot of it on film and it was good to get Jordan out there more than he has been out there. I thought it was probably his most reps, at least back-to-back reps. I thought he made some good plays, some of the obvious ones you guys saw and missed a couple also.”
Reed hasn’t played in a regular season NFL game since Week 14 of the 2018 season. He missed all of last year with his seventh concussion. San Francisco added him with the hopes he’d be an additional dynamic pass-catching tight end to pair with George Kittle – something they lacked a season ago. Shanahan indicated to reporters that having such a player would go a long way toward helping the offense take a step forward.
“Yeah, it would be huge. With George having limited reps and everything, it’s given other guys an opportunity to step up,” Shanahan said. “It’s good to see when guys get that opportunity, they’re taking advantage of it. Jordan had a great day today. He could do things in space and make guys miss, and the other guys, Charlie [Woerner], Chase [Harrell], those guys have been stepping up, too. So, it’s a group effort there at tight end and you’re happy to see guys take advantage of it.”
Shanahan’s praise of Reed prior to complimenting Woerner, a rookie sixth-round pick, and Harrell, an undrafted rookie, tells what the coach is hoping to get from Reed.
While Harrell and Woerner may be making strides, Reed’s ability to move like a wide receiver with the size of a tight end makes him a unique offensive weapon. Most observations about Reed from reporters have been about how uncoverable he looks.
The 49ers won’t need Reed to do a ton in their offense, especially if Woerner, Harrell or Ross Dwelley are taking on a bulk of the blocking responsibilities. Having a versatile pass-catching tight end could unfold a new layer of the 49ers’ offense, and Friday was just another day of Reed showing that he can be that player as long as he’s healthy.