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In an injury-shortened 10-game season last year, Ravens safety Ed Reed had eight interceptions.
He has been healthy this season and played in all 15 games, garnering three interceptions, which would be a career-low in seasons where he has played all 16 games, and just one of those has come in the last 14 games.
The statistics show it’s been a modest season for the future Hall-of-Famer, but Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano said he hasn’t seen a drop off in Reed’s impact on the games.
“If you look at everything, he’s played well,” Pagano said Thursday. “But you’ve got to look at how many times they have thrown down the middle of the field.”
Reed has made a living throughout this career roaming the center of the field and taking away the deep routes across the middle. His role hasn’t changed this season, but teams are simply choosing to avoid giving Reed an opportunity to hurt them.
“They’re taking him out of the game,” Pagano said. “He’s doing his job; he’s doing what he’s supposed to be. They’re just not giving him any opportunities.”
When teams have burned the Ravens this year with big yardage plays, they have typically come on passes down the sideline. Reed can shade over to help cornerbacks in some situations, but his primary responsibility is to protect the middle.
“Rather than just take some chances and hurt the defense, he’s playing the scheme,” Pagano said. “He’s playing the defense the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Having Reed as a threat over the middle of the field changes how teams attack the Ravens defense and also alters they way Baltimore’s cornerbacks and linebackers play.
Knowing that Reed is behind them is often a confidence booster.
“We have something that we like to call ‘The Fear Factor’ [Reed] that lines up behind us, so we’re pretty safe,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.
Reed’s impact on the game also goes beyond the number of interceptions or tackles he’s made. Coaches and players routinely comment on the influence Reed has in the locker room and in team meetings.
“Ed knows everything that’s going on,” said strong safety Bernard Pollard, who is in his first season with the team. “Ed knows it inside and out. For me, just to have a player like that next to you, it’s just exciting because you don’t have to worry about doing his job.”
And while his numbers are not what they have been in years past, Reed and the Ravens still have time to turn that around.
“He understands, like anybody else, that he’s got to be patient,” Pagano said. “And his plays will come.”