Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. The Redskins new addition at safety has a fan in Smith
One of Smith's two interceptions this season belongs to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who as of Tuesday afternoon is now a member of the Redskins. Which is to say, Smith is well-aware of the former Green Bay safety's skills as a player.
What makes him an attractive acquisition, at least according to Smith, is that he's a versatile defender, able to cover different types of receivers and runs as NFL offenses become more complex and require more communication from defenses.
"You used to kind of just have a box safety and a post safety and that was kind of the deal and now I think either of those guys with what offenses are doing, can get put in space, get manned up on guys, they can get put in the box, they need to be able to tackle, they need to be able to play the post when they have to," Smith said. "I think a little bit, you kind of need a player like that, that's a little bit of a jack of all trades, can do a little bit of everything because of all the situations they can end up in."
Smith doesn't believe there's a message being sent by the front office with the trade. He just knows the team added another good football player and that Clinton-Dix is just one player among many trying to elevate the franchise.
"There are so many areas to a football team, certainly us as players trying to get it corrected in the meeting rooms and on the field and obviously try to work, but obviously there is the personnel side of this as well that we don't have a lot of control over," he said. "But everybody's on board in this building with what we are trying to do."
2. Smith is never thinking about limiting turnovers
The Redskins are tied for second (with the Packers and Falcons) in the league in give-away interceptions with two. Smith's only giveaways this year have been, as mentioned above, to the Packers and to the Saints. It's gone a long way in making sure Washington wins the time of possession battle and makes up for the lack of scoring on the season.
But Smith refuted the idea that he's purposefully trying not to take chances or risks downfield. While he hasn't had much success in the passing game with intermediate and deep throws, he hasn't consciously held back.
"I don't feel like I've turned down any opportunities or chances down field because of cautiousness or anything like that. I feel like you've got to be able to pull the trigger," Smith said. "We are trying to score points, trying to move the football. I can't think of a situation this year ever where I felt like I was being cautious with the football, not to say you don't miss things, but it's not because of that. I think you do that with your fundamentals, you do that with your decision-making, location of the football, ball handling in the pocket, two hands on the ball, ball security, things like that when you are handling it, you let your fundamentals take care of that."
3. Smith believes Adrian Peterson has been the bell cow for the offense
The Redskins quarterback shies away from categorical statements, understandably. But even he has trouble not exuding praise for the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week. Through seven games, Peterson has run for 587 rushing yards, already surpassing his total from last year, and has nine receptions for 151 yards.
"I think to one player, certainly he's a guy that's been our bell cow back there, bringing a lot of physicality, a lot of energy and a guy I think we are asking a lot of and we're moving around and I think he's enjoying that," Smith said.
"You've seen him get a chance and an opportunity to do things he hasn't always had the chance to do in his past, some of the gun-run stuff, some of the catching out the backfield and to see the playmaking all over the field has been fun. He's a guy that we feed off of, I know the mindset and attitude that he brings certainly fits with what we want to be about up front and our style of play."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
4. He is still learning the intricacies of his wide receivers' tendencies
As the Redskins prepare for the halfway point of the season, quarterback Alex Smith has a stat line that projects to be slightly less than his more recent NFL totals. His completion percentage stands at 63.2 percent and he's currently averaging 6.8 yards per pass, down from 8 the year before.
Some of the issues in targeting receivers and being more accurate with the football have stemmed from a lack of congruity. Several of his main playmakers have missed time this season with nagging injuries, and it's been hard to build rapport in practice each week. During games, the effects are noticed.
"There is really a premium on both the receiver and quarterbacks seeing the same thing and reacting to it the same way and I think that's the hard part," Smith said. "You are seeing the same thing on the fly, reacting to it the same way. There are times when it is cut and dry, when its pure zone and we're spacing the field and timing routes and there are times when it's purely man and you just beat him. But, a lot of times it's a blend of the two and I think you've got to see the same thing, react to it the same way."
As the offense prepares for a new opponent and new defensive scheme each week, having those practice reps becomes important. When players miss time, the connection suffers. It's hard to be mentally aware in the meeting room and be perfect on Sunday in the flow of action.
"I think some of that just takes reps and accumulation," Smith said. "I think a blend of obviously new faces that come in and we're all kind of learning it together. There's so much that goes into that, that's why it is obviously hard to get and it's something you are constantly working on."
5. When it comes to RPO's, Smith knows they're a week-to-week proposition
Arguably the biggest trend in offenses over the last couple of years, the run-pass option has become a substantial part of a quarterback's preparation throughout the week. Smith said Wednesday that there are certain weeks, based on the defense, that RPO's will be used heavily and effectively. Other weeks, not so much.
"Sometimes it doesn't make as much sense and sometimes in game you never totally know how teams will react to things," Smith said. "I think we've seen some different adjustments that teams have made to us, in game, to some of it. I think as we continue to kind of build on it you have a more sophisticated deal around it – the things off of it – the things that go with it, stuff like that. So, it is a week-to-week thing though based on what we are seeing in our matchups and the schemes that they run."
When it comes to other kinds of play-action and bootleg schemes, Smith says it takes the pressure off his decision-making.
"I do think you don't always have to be right with the call sometimes, you know, you don't have to predict coverage, pressure, loaded box, not loaded, I think it kind of takes care of all that stuff," Smith said. "Depending on how aggressive the defense wants to be, or not, you've got answers."