BGA: Scouting Konrad Reuland
Bent , theJetsBlog.com
The Jets added three players to their active roster via waiver claims over the weekend. Jets fans might not know much about these players, so I’ve been looking at them in detail to investigate what they could bring to the table. Earlier, I looked at Clyde Gates and Isaako Aaitui but now I’m going to turn my attentions to ex-49ers tight end Konrad Reuland.
On hearing that the Jets had picked up an unfamiliar tight end, many Jets fans probably assumed that this is the blocking tight end that the Jets currently lack. However, he has more of a reputation as a pass catcher, so perhaps this doesn’t – and isn’t even intended to – address that need. Reuland has some nice size (6-4, 260) and has been with San Francisco for the past two preseason campaigns. He spent the entire regular season on their practice squad last year.
After the jump, I’ll be reviewing his preseason performances and considering what he could provide the Jets with this year and going forward.
I’m actually going to focus on Reuland’s pass catching ability first and then move on to consider his blocking separately.
The undrafted Reuland was in the mix for the third tight end role throughout preseason and got plenty of first half reps, before being waived on cutdown day. His total reps obviously varied from game to game.
Week One: New Orleans
Reuland was targeted once, catching a five yard pass. He started to run, stopped and turned for the ball and made the catch, then was tackled immediately.
Week Two: Oakland
This time, Reuland was targeted twice, catching both passes for a total of 28 yards. The first saw him catch the ball downfield for 15 yards and hang on despite a big hit. On the second, he was wide open on the outside, but had to dive to make a low catch, so his gain was only 13 when it could have been much more.
Week Three: Houston
He was targeted twice in this game. The first was just beyond his reach as he made a diving attempt on a short pass. The second saw him make the catch underneath on a 3rd-and-9 play, but a good open field tackle stopped him four yards short of the first down marker.
Week Four: San Diego
He was not targeted in this game.
Overall, Reuland caught four passes for 38 yards on five targets.
Once again, Reuland was in the mix for the third TE role and did see some first half action.
Week One: Minnesota
Reuland was targeted twice, on consecutive plays. He caught both, for a total of 17 yards. On the first, he caught a short pass on the outside and broke a tackle, then on the second he was open over the middle for a ten yard gain, but well short of the first down because it was 3rd-and-22.
Week Two: Houston
This time, Reuland was thrown to three times, catching three passes for 26 yards, although the first one (for eight yards) did not count. On that play he ran into a defensive back, put his hands on him and then turned back for the ball. He was flagged for offensive pass interference. The next saw him gain 15 yards as he was wide open underneath after leaking out across the field. Finally, he gained three yards as he made a low, diving catch on a wide throw.
Week Three: Denver
Reuland was only targeted once in this game but made a nice 16 yard catch on the left sideline, landing with his feet just inbounds. He did also hustle to recover a fumble by his quarterback.
Week Four: San Diego
He was targeted five times in this game, catching four (for 23 yards). The first three came on consecutive plays in the second quarter. He picked up six on an underneath route, then eight on nice catch as he ran an out pattern for a first down. On the next play, he lost yardage because of a bad spot but it was actually a short gain on a dumpoff. He did well to catch a low throw with the defensive player making an immediate open field tackle. In the second half he had one high throw go off his fingertips and one play where he caught the ball at the five then turned upfield and put his head down as he dived for the end zone. It looked like he broke the plane easily, but the officials ruled him down at the one.
Overall, Reuland caught nine passes for 73 yards on ten targets.
Taking the two preseason campaigns together, that’s 13 catches on 15 targets (for 111 yards). Remember, Clyde Gates has been thrown to 34 times and caught just ten. What was clear from the footage (and from the comments of the announcers) was that he knows how to get open and had extremely reliable hands. On the other hand, you can’t rely on him to get anything in the way of yards after the catch. It was all very basic stuff, finding a spot in the zone and catching a simple pass – but that’s a lot of what Chris Baker used to do a few years ago.
So, taking into account his reputation as a questionable blocker, seeing him play has me thinking they are targeting him for another reason. This could be a guy they can use to get some safe chunks of yardage here and there, perhaps to avoid running the ball on first down and just picking up two yards, forcing them into a passing situation. Also he could be a reliable safety value to keep the chains moving on third downs and maybe even in the red zone. If he gets plenty of playing time, it could help Mark Sanchez’s completion percentage numbers because Sanchez’s top two targets at wide receiver and tight end each have low catch rates for their respective positions.
Can he block though? It’s going to make it a lot easier to get him on the field in these situations and have him be effective if he can at least show some signs of mild competence as a blocker. Let’s consider that separately to get some clues about how he might be used this season.
It’s pretty difficult to assess blocking from preseason footage alone. As you’ll know from watching the Jets, teams keep their playbooks very basic during those August encounters, often running the same play multiple times, so there’s no way of knowing whether a player would be unable to handle some of the blocking assignments required for some of the plays they weren’t using or if they’d actually look more impressive with a less predictable offense and a chance to show more of what they can do. However, we can still get an idea of some of the things Reuland can do quite well and obviously identify any obvious mistakes or weaknesses in his game.
Week One: New Orleans
In the early stages, they didn’t ask too much of Reuland and he didn’t make any obvious mistakes, although he could have sustained his block a little better on a couple of plays and sometimes gave his opponent too much room. I was waiting to see how he’d do in pass blocking, because other than one play where he chipped the defensive end and then ran a route, he hadn’t been used in that area. The immediate signs were not good, as Reuland blocked as if he was in pass protection on a play that was actually a draw up the middle. The defensive lineman gave him an almighty shove and he stumbled back and almost toppled over. Then, when he did stay in for the first time, he was beaten badly on the inside and the quarterback was flushed from the pocket. He only stayed in twice more in pass protection and didn’t get beaten, although on the first play the right tackle got beaten instead and on the second one he was almost beaten to the outside, semi-recovered and then got some late help.
As a run blocker, he was never cleanly beaten. However, on a couple of occasions his man was able to win the leverage battle and get in on a run stuff. He did show promise on a couple of plays, sealing the edge with a double team and then peeling off to make a second level block on one play and driving his man to the inside on another. Neither went for a big gain though.
Week Two: Oakland
In this game, he had the same issue with guys getting inside leverage to redirect or bottle up a run on a couple of occasions. He also had a couple of plays where he didn’t make a good block in space and on one play he was upended by a safety when going to make a block on the move. Again he did show some signs of promise, mainly on a late drive where the 49ers kept handing the ball to Xavier Omon and eventually got all the way down the field for a touchdown. On that drive, Reuland made two good second level blocks and drove his man out of the play on another run. He did have one misstep on the drive too, as he failed to sustain his block on the edge and his man stuffed the run. There was also one long touchdown run where he did just about enough to prevent his man from moving laterally down the line and stopping the runner from hitting the hole.
In pass protection, he was involved in a play where the 49ers gave up a sack, but I actually thought he did his job well on that play. He initially double teamed a defensive end with the left tackle and then came off that double team to pick up a delayed blitz from a linebacker. The left tackle then lost his block and the man Reuland was originally double-teaming made the sack. On another play, Reuland picked up a run blitz well, driving the blitzer to the inside to set up a run off the edge.
Week Three: Houston
With the starters getting more reps in this one, Reuland’s playing time was down but he stayed in to block a couple of times. On the first, he was bullrushed into the backfield and had to get some help from the left guard. The pass under pressure was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He did better on the other one, with the right tackle in position to help him just in case. On special teams, he had one play where he drove his man down to the ground on a wedge block, but also got called for a questionable hold. On the play after that, though, he had his best block of the preseason so far, meeting his man at the second level and driving him backwards as a run to the outside picked up a nice gain.
So far, Reuland had been used as an inline tight end or motioning to the edge of the line as a tight end or h-back. If there were two tight ends on his side, he was always the outside guy.
Week Four: San Diego
Although he wasn’t thrown to in this game, he still played plenty of snaps and also showed a nasty streak on special teams, driving a defensive back at least 20 yards backwards. He was beaten for a pressure in pass protection, as his man made a spin move and then later on his man was able to spin away from him block to get in on a run stuff. They continued to keep things simple for Reuland, who made a couple of successful cut blocks, one good kick out block and set the edge on one play, but none of these particularly influenced the outcome of the play.
At the end of his first preseason campaign, you could see that Reuland was a work in progress as a blocker. However, signs of improvement in 2012 would be a good sign for the Jets. So far, he was struggling in pass protection, didn’t always sustain his blocks or win the leverage battle and was inconsistent at finding a man to block in space. However, he didn’t seem to have too many mental errors.
Reuland’s chances of making the team took a hit when the 49ers converted backup defensive lineman DeMarcus Dobbs (who you may remember from Colin Baxter’s worst nightmare) into a two-way player, meaning that Reuland was battling for one open spot with Garrett Celek. You may remember Celek as the guy everyone said was Michigan State’s better blocking tight end when the Jets picked up his teammate Brian Linthicum (and for being Brent Celek’s younger brother).
Week One: Minnesota
Something new from Reuland in this game was that he had some reps as a fullback and in the slot, neither of which he did in his rookie year. He still ran a route almost every time they threw the ball, but did stay in once and did a good job as the quarterback rolled out. He had one good run block where he drove his guy to the inside and no real mistakes. He even managed to pick up a blitz accidentally while running a route to the opposite flat. Some of his playing time in each game woud come against starters, as he usually saw action in all four quarters.
Week Two: Houston
Reuland didn’t get a chance to show much in his first game and the early signs that he’d made any progress were not good as he missed his block on the edge and his man stuffed the run. He clapped his hands in frustration after that play. Other than that, though, he generally did a good job of keeping his man in front of him. He did miss a block at the second level, but responded with a good second level block shortly afterwards. On another play, he didn’t manage to sustain his block on the edge as his runner bounced to the outside.
In pass protection, he did a good job on one play, but on another he let his man turn the corner and almost held him, but did enough to slow him down enough for the quarterback to get the throw off. He had two interesting plays from the fullback position. On one, he made a good block at the second level, but on another, a linebacker stood him up and the ball carrier ran into his back.
Week Three: Denver
I was hoping to see signs of improvement from Reuland and in this game, that finally materialized. The play he saw most success with required him to motion over to the right side and then block down on one of the inside linebackers. He drove his man to the inside several times on this play. There was also a play where he drove a defensive end back off the line and turned him to the inside to set up a run to the edge. On another play, he lined up on the left, but ran to the right flat and blocked a safety as the quarterback ran a bootleg to the right side. He also moved his feet well a couple of times in pass protection, looking a lot more comfortable in that role.
Very little of what he did had a high degree of difficulty, but Reuland did his job well on several plays and didn’t really make any mistakes. In fact, the closest he came to making a mistake saw him fail to engage with his man at the second level, but that still was enough for that guy to take himself out of the play when he was trying to get around his block and the play went for a 26 yard touchdown up the middle. He also lined up out wide for the first time in this game.
Week Four: San Diego
More promising signs here from Reuland, as he rocked the middle linebacker at the second level on a play that went for an 18 yard gain. He also drove a linebacker out of the play on another run and had a good block on special teams. He did almost get beaten on the outside on one running play but did just enough to enable the runner to still get to the edge.
By now, the moments I would have highlighted as positives in summarizing the 2011 games (eg successfully staying in to block or making a routine edge-setting or second level block) were becoming more commonplace.
Reuland’s blocking definitely improved from 2011 to 2012. While he isn’t a dominating blocker, he was doing the simple things without making any mistakes and making the occasional impact. He also clearly looked more comfortable in pass protection and was more versatile in how they used him. He’s not a “blocking tight end” but if he can be a “receiving tight end that can block” that will be an upgrade for the Jets.
There’s no guarantees that Reuland will even be on the final roster once the Jets get a look at him. Mike Tannenbaum signed Saints TE Zach Hilton at this stage in 2006 and he didn’t stick. However, he also added the likes of Sean Ryan, Ben Hartsock and Matt Mulligan at this stage in previous seasons and all of them went on to play a role.
It’s instantly apparent that this isn’t the pure blocking tight end many Jets fans were calling out for. The Jets may still add a blocking specialist at some point, but the plan may instead be to use six offensive linemen a lot and run from three wide sets (perhaps with slot receivers making key blocks). As you may recall, they placed a waiver claim on Brody Eldridge earlier this offseason and he was cut by the Rams, but then it was revealed that he will miss the first four games with a substance abuse suspension, so that may have eliminated one possible target.
Instead, this move might be more closely linked with the Josh Baker injury. With his ability to be the motion tight end, an h-back or a fullback, Reuland could replace Baker’s possible role on this offense. Now, we don’t quite know how much of a role they had earmarked for Baker, but we do know that Tony Sparano likes his two tight end sets. Based on what I’ve seen (and remembering that it’s not easy to assess blocking based on the vanilla preseason schemes), Reuland’s blocking is at least on a par with Baker. He’s bigger and has good hands with an uncanny ability to get open underneath, but perhaps lacks some of Baker’s athleticism.
If the Jets are going to use him in two and three tight end sets with Dustin Keller and/or Jeff Cumberland, he needs to be able to block, but the ability to be a safety valve is also useful. He would be replacing Mulligan in these packages and the encouraging thing is that in eight games with plenty of playing time, Reuland was only called for one penalty (and that was a debatable hold on special teams). As long as the Jets plan is for him to get simple blocking assignments, then he definitely looks capable of handling that role at least well enough that the defense won’t know for sure if the Jets intend to run or pass when he enters the game.
If Reuland continues to improve, then he could theoretically prove to be a good all round tight end in the Anthony Fasano mold, but obviously that’s being extremely optimistic. For now, someone who doesn’t get cleanly beaten so that a play is blown up in the backfield once or twice a game would be an upgrade over Keller and Cumberland. It looks likely they’ve found that, but we’ll have to see how much of a role he’s going to get.