Three seasons ago, all odds were against him. Drafted in the seventh-round, he needed to grasp the attention of the coaching staff early in training camp to have a shot at making the final roster. Exhibiting the skills and potential to justify the team’s investment, DT James “Tank” Reed, did more than just impress the coaches. He acquired a nickname that has stuck with him throughout his NFL career.
“Jason Ferguson gave me the name ‘Tank’,” Reed said. “It was because of my physique and how I play the game.”
Blessed with good size and athleticism, the four-year veteran has proved over the years to be a productive member of the team’s defensive line rotation. Reed’s drive to succeed has resulted in an impeccable work ethic that has been evident on the practice field of Weeb Ewbank Hall this year. During the first two weeks of camp, Reed has not been hard man to find. The Iowa State product has lived up to his nickname by steamrolling past offensive linemen and clogging the middle during run drills. He has displayed the finesse to knife through the line and drop running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Reed also lines up with the first-team kick return unit as a wedge blocker. But Reed has clearly made his mark on defense, where has garnered extra practice reps due to the team’s cautious approach with nine-year veteran DT Josh Evans, who’s had trouble with his knees. New defensive line coach Denny Marcin has had plenty of time to evaluate Reed, who has received some reps with the starters this summer.
“I’ve been very impressed with (Reed),” Marcin said, who compared him to New York Giants DT Lance Legree, a player he coached last season. “(Legree and Reed) weigh about the same, they both have good quickness. Both move around well and show quick hands.”
Recognized primarily as a one-dimensional player, Reed focused on shedding weight earlier to make a bigger impact and take his game up a notch this year.
“I ate right, worked on my diet,” Reed said. “I’m lighter than what I’ve been the first couple of years here. I was 288, 289 (pounds) and now I’m about 281. I just want to play. I want to make plays and do what I do to help this team win.”
The weight loss should benefit Reed as he and the rest of his defensive teammates adjust to new coordinator Donnie Henderson’s aggressive, up-tempo scheme. After recording a career-high 43 tackles last season, Reed was concerned that a switch in defensive philosophy would stymie his production in 2004.
“It bothered me at first, but it doesn’t bother me anymore,” Reed said of the various defensive alignments, including a base 3-4 formation. “It looks good now, but when the season starts and we start winning some games, that’s when we’ll know we’re getting the job done. For now, we just have to learn it and execute it.”
If he continues his stellar play in preseason, Reed could become an integral part of the defense in certain situations.
“We’re going to see if we can get him in as a starter on goal line situations next week (at Indianapolis),” Marcin said. “We have to look at the tape, but want to get him in those type of situations.”
That would be a step in the right direction for Reed, who is currently buried behind former first-round pick DT Dewayne Robertson, Ferguson and Evans on the team’s depth chart. Instead of whining about his role, Reed sees it as a motivational tool.
“It would be great (to crack the starting lineup),” Reed said. “But for now, if I just continue to work hard, good things will come.”
That attitude has allowed Reed to earn a roster spot in each of the past three training camps and the team is excited to have him on their side.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Marcin said. “He’s a full-go guy. He goes 110 miles an hour. He’s working on his technique, working on the defense and knowing it better. He’s a good solid player for us with a high motor.”
The team should feel fortunate to have a player in their defensive arsenal with the perseverance and commitment to succeed, not to mention the physical attributes to blow up the opposition as only a ‘Tank’ can do.