Redskins FS Jeremy Reaves makes roster decision at safety interesting
The Redskins first preseason game against the Browns will not be remembered for sound defensive play. However, Jeremy Reaves may have shown the coaching staff that he should be in the conversation for a safety spot on the final 53-man roster.
The Washington Redskins had a rather sluggish performance on both sides of the ball in their first preseason contest against the Browns, in front of an announced crowd of 67,431 at FirstEnergy Stadium. While the final score was indicative of the play on the field for both teams, there were in fact individual players who stood out for the Redskins on both offense and defense.
Browns quarterbacks mostly had their way throughout the game against a Redskins defense mostly made up of depth players. The defense as a unit allowed 23 first downs and 417 yards of total offense in the matchup. In the first offensive drive of the game, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield led an efficient seven-play, 89-yard drive capped off with a 24-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rashard Higgins. Higgins was able to secure the catch as the ball sailed right over the outstretched arms of Redskins safety Troy Apke, who appeared to be looked off by Mayfield right before the throw.
While the Redskins secondary was not overly consistent in the game, one player who was quietly productive in the game was second-year safety Jeremy Reaves. Reaves finished the game tied with cornerback Jimmy Moreland for a team-high six tackles. He also added one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. His shining moment in the game came via the fumble recovery, which was returned 27 yards, ending a Browns 10-play, 69-yard drive in the third quarter. The young safety showed great awareness in picking up the ball, but was upset with himself because he did not score on the play. He had a path down the sideline, but was forced out by a Browns offensive lineman.
Per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, coming out of college, Reaves was a “voracious run supporter, who moves pretty fluidly in coverage and offers the ability to play Cover 2 or in the box.” As a member of the South Alabama football team, he recorded a career 301 tackles, eight interceptions, 22 passes defensed, and eight forced fumbles. As a senior in 2017, he was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. In that season alone, he had 104 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and three interceptions as the starting safety.
Reaves will face an uphill battle in cracking the lineup at the safety position. Landon Collins and Montae Nicholson seem to be locked in as starters, and backups at the position include incumbents Deshazor Everett and Troy Apke. Everett is entering his fifth season with the Redskins, and has been a career special teams stalwart for the team. Apke is elite athletically, but has yet to show he can translate this physical talents to the field. If Reaves is able to work his way on to the 53-man roster, keep an eye on the play of the former Penn State product Apke. Apke had an average performance against the Browns. He seemed to be out of position at times in the pass game, and did not show the overall aggression of Reaves or UDFA JoJo McIntosh.
While not perfect in the game against the Browns, Reaves showed that he will be a factor as the preseason goes on. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the highest graded member of the team with a minimum of 20 snaps at 90.1. He consistently showed awareness and a willingness to sacrifice his body at the point of attack. He must continue to produce in the three remaining preseason games starting with next week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field. If he can recreate his productive past, the safety battle may get interesting. The best 53 players should make the final roster, regardless of draft status.