Joe Reed motioned from the left side of the offense to the right side as Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert snapped the ball.
The rookie quarterback handed the ball to Reed, a rookie out of Virginia, who then made his way toward the right sideline. About 10 yards stood between him and a touchdown.
The former Virginia standout received a quality block from tight end Hunter Henry, broke free from a tackler and burst into the end zone through contact. The play resulted in Reed’s first career NFL touchdown, officially going down as a seven-yard touchdown rush.
“Breaking the huddle, I told myself whatever it took, I had to get in,” Reed said.
Los Angeles also won the game, beating Jacksonville 39-29. It was all positives Sunday for Reed, who reached the end zone for the first time as a pro and helped his team pick up a victory.
“Coming in, our biggest goal was to just go 1-0 this week and leave SoFi [Stadium] with our first victory here and for me just doing my job whenever I’m out there,” Reed said.
Scoring came as a thrill for Reed, especially after his limited workload recently.
Reed hadn’t taken the field for the Chargers since Sept. 27 in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. He’s been a healthy scratch multiple times this season, with Los Angeles opting to make other players active on game day.
That changed Sunday, when the Chargers not only put Reed in as a kickoff returner, but also gave him the chance to play in a season-high 9% of the team’s offensive snaps.
“We wanted to get him back in there as a returner because I do believe he’s gonna return a kick or two [for a touchdown] this year before it’s all said and done,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. “Just wanted to get him back going because he’s so versatile.”
Lynn loves Reed’s returning ability, and he also wants the rookie to earn more reps on offense.
Chargers starting running back Austin Ekeler is on injured reserve with a hamstring issue, and he’s likely multiple weeks away from returning. The team’s other running backs struggled to produce on the ground in Week 7, with Herbert being the team’s best running threat.
Lynn knows Reed’s versatility makes him an option at running back, should the current players suffer an injury.
“We use him as a wide receiver,” Lynn said. “We use him as a running back, and with the lack of depth we have at running back right now, you never know, a couple guys go down Joe may have to go play running back. He does so many different things I thought it was important to try to get him back up.”
Reed took advantage of the time on the field, helping the Chargers jump out to a 9-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The speedster’s touchdown caught the attention of those in Charlottesville. UVa head coach Bronco Mendenhall made sure to mention Reed’s touchdown during his Monday press conference. After being asked about the current group of receivers and last year’s guys, Mendenhall gave Reed a shout out.
“He scored his first touchdown, by the way on Sunday, which was so cool,” Mendenhall said excitedly.
Virginia fans were quite familiar with watching Joe Reed celebrate in the end zone. Chargers fans received their first taste of the experience Sunday.