Faced with a must-win game inside a hostile U.S. Bank Stadium, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings in blowout fashion—thanks in no small part to Jayden Reed.
The rookie wide receiver put on a show, catching six passes for 89 yards and two memorable touchdowns. Reed first caught a laser from Jordan Love, before dragging Josh Metellus with him after the catch for a gritty score right before halftime.
While a chest injury sidelined him for the remainder of the game, the damage was done and the Packers cruised to a 33-10 victory. While this display was arguably his best of the season, it was far from the first time the 50th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft had proven his worth.
With one contest remaining, Reed has already accumulated 800 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage this season. He's recorded 60 receptions and caught 66.7% of his targets, proving to be a crucial piece of Green Bay's offense. Reed set a new single-season rookie receiving record for the Packers in Week 17.
While many were excited about Reed's prospects coming out of college, few would've predicted his major role during year one of the Love era.
Coming into 2023, Christian Watson was projected to be the go-to pass catcher for the new starting quarterback. Additionally, Aaron Jones was also expected to once again be a reliable star in Matt LaFleur's offense.
Jayden Reed and Matt LaFleur are a match made in heaven for Packers
But the injury bug struck both, leaving the first-year starter without an obvious target he could rely on each week. Luckily for the Packers, Reed answered the call. Beginning as early as Week 2 against Atlanta, when he caught a pair of touchdown passes, the newcomer quickly proved to be a versatile and consistent addition.
As expected, his speed jumped off the page, causing Love to target him on deep throws such as this explosive toss against Pittsburgh. But Reed's impact goes beyond these highlight-reel moments.
He's equally dependable as a slot target, helping the offense keep the chains moving when it matters most. Reed has caught four or more passes in nine of his 15 appearances, and has logged at least six receptions in his past three games.
He's getting it done all over the field—and that doesn't just come in the air, either. The coaching staff has also weaponized Reed's quickness by utilizing jet sweeps and getting blockers out in front of him in opportune moments.
That's a play type LaFleur has been looking to maximize for years, as there were several moments where players like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard tried to churn up yards on the ground. Yet, it often felt like LaFleur was getting too cute by trying to deceive opposing defenses with those calls. Now, thanks to Reed, there seems to be purpose on that page of the playbook.
On top of his well-rounded offensive role, No. 11 has also contributed as a punt returner. Splitting time with Keisean Nixon, he's fielded 11 boots for 94 yards, including a 35-yard return against Atlanta.
Reed is quite comfortable in this position, as he was an electric return man during his time as a Spartan. It'll be interesting to see if the Packers opt to keep him away from special teams in the future to prevent injuries, or if they'll try to unleash this side of his game further.
In totality, Reed has smashed through practically every expectation fans and analysts would've set for him. Though he isn't a dominant pass catcher like a Justin Jefferson or Davante Adams, he doesn't have to be to make an impact. His do-it-all skillset is one the Packers couldn't have lived without this fall.
And while it's hard to imagine he'll make the PFWA All-Rookie Team due to Puka Nacua and Zay Flowers' monstrous seasons, Reed's masterful debut year shouldn't be overlooked.
Approaching a "win-and-you're-in" battle with the Bears come Sunday, Green Bay will need Reed healthy to find success. He's truly become an invaluable piece of the Packers' puzzle.