AP Pro Football Writer
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- As soon as Washington Redskins rookie tight end Jordan Reed got over the first of what's been a series of intermittent injuries, 13-year NFL veteran Santana Moss could tell the new kid was going to be good.
"Once he started running around, you're like, 'Ah, he got a little hop in his step,'" Moss said Thursday, shimmying his shoulders. "He's got something that's different from other tight ends. So when I watched that a couple of times, it made me tilt my head back, like, 'Wow. That's rare.' You know what I mean? You don't get a tight end that can bounce like that."
Reed is the latest example of the modern model for his position -- a 6-foot-3, 225-pound guy who will line up alongside the offensive line, yes, and go across the middle, yes, but also can speed into space and is "wired to separate," as quarterback Robert Griffin III put it, quoting offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's phrase.
"He's different from your average tight end -- a big-body, big-bone guy that can run and catch. He actually is an athlete," Moss said. "He's just a mismatch. I enjoy watching him against safeties. ... You put him against any linebacker, and he's going to beat them. When I watch him separate against those safeties, I'm like, 'It's a wrap.'"
Heading into Sunday, when the Redskins (2-4) play at the Denver Broncos (6-1), Reed has emerged as one of Griffin's top receivers -- and among the most dependable in the NFL.
Through Week 7, Reed ranks fifth in the entire league, and No. 1 among rookies, in reception percentage at 86.7, holding onto 26 of the 30 balls thrown his way so far, according to STATS LLC.
"I take pride in my routes and being able to create separation," Reed said. "I work on that every day in practice."
In last weekend's 45-41 victory over the Chicago Bears, Griffin aimed nine passes in Reed's direction, and all nine were caught, for a total of 134 yards. No Redskins rookie tight end ever had more than 78 yards receiving in a game; no rookie for the team, at any position, had gained that many yards via catches since 2001.
"He's got a wide catch radius, which basically means he can catch anything you throw at him -- high, low, behind him," Griffin said. "He's a friendly target for a quarterback and can help with mismatches out there."
The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year got a chance to get comfortable with the third-round pick in this year's draft because both were injured -- Griffin with his famously ripped up right knee; Reed with a bruised left knee. So Reed was part of the group of players who worked on the side with the QB.
"We built a rapport," Griffin said. "Him being with me the whole offseason only helps our chemistry out there on the field."
Right at this moment, the only obvious negative for Reed is a propensity for getting injured.
He played most of the game against the Bears with a bruised right hip after getting sandwiched between two defenders, but was a full participant in practice Thursday. He missed Washington's game at Oakland with a bruised right thigh. And he sat out the team's preseason opener with a sprained right foot.
"Hopefully he can stay healthy," Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's got the intangibles that you look for."
Thinking back to when he drafted Reed, Shanahan said: "When we looked at Jordan, we felt we had a guy who was very special catching the football and very special in and out of breaks. More like a wide receiver than a tight end."
Reed is this season's version of last season's Alfred Morris, an unheralded draft pick who was expected to sit behind a veteran but quickly emerged as the main guy. In Reed's case, Fred Davis has gone from starter to someone who was inactive Sunday and now reportedly is on the trading block.
"I knew if I worked hard I'd give myself at least a chance to be out there," Reed said, "and that's what I did."
Notes: WR Leonard Hankerson was limited in practice Thursday because of an aching right foot that he said he hurt by tripping on stairs at home while playing with his kids. ... NT Chris Neild (right calf), DE Stephen Bowen (right knee), and S Reed Doughty (concussion) also were limited.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White and freelancer Kevin Dunleavy contributed.
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