Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Thursday, July 26, 2018, at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.
1. For Smith, there's no substitute for reps.
Although head coach Jay Gruden has noted his quarterback's professional nature and seamless transition, Smith still needs more work on the field to feel fully adjusted.
"Yeah, there's no substitute for just reps," Smith said. "I think I've watched a lot of the film a lot of these guys playing. I think here, hopefully as camp revs up. There is a system, I think, to bringing some of these guys back and continue to get work where you can. You know throwing with Jordan [Reed] on the side when I can - getting CT [Chris Thompson] reps here and there. So, I think all those are important. There's no substitute for reps, and I think as those guys slowly get back into game speed, we'll have time for that. So yeah, getting them in when you can and try to take advantage [and] make the most of the opportunities."
It's particularly challenging to foster relationships with injured teammates that weren't able to take any reps with him in the spring. Training camp offers the first opportunity to connect on the football field, a window into what the offense might look like.
"I think that the advantage that we have is all the guys that we are talking about are all veteran guys and have played and watched a lot of film and still doing it," Smith said. "So yeah I mean there will still be a little bit of a learning curve and an adjustment period but I feel like I have a decent understanding of what these guys can do and I've watched a lot of film of them doing it at a really high level. So, excited to get on the field and get through that first few steps and get up to speed."
2. It's easy to set extreme goals, but Smith is staying short-sighted.
"I think every team has lofty goals and talks about all of these end-of-the year things. I think the important thing this time of the year is to stay short-sided," Smith said.
That's the motto for Smith still learning and adjusting to a new team, new cities (including Richmond) and new dynamics. The easiest way to stay in the moment is to have great competition, which Smith believes the team achieved.
"We'll be practicing against each other for the next couple of weeks and we got to have great work, we have to make each other better," Smith said. "And from a short-sighted stand point, that trickles into pre-season and all this is gearing up for that opener. So, I think our focus is on that but really it starts here in camp. We have to have a great camp. We have to great work against each other. We need to make each other better.
He added: "I think you're constantly making adjustments, tweaking things and trying new things so you're always working at that part of your craft as a quarterback. Yea that's part of it and reps certainly help with that. The more you practice things the more they innate."
3. At 34 years old, he still believes his best football is ahead of him.
In an era where more and more quarterbacks have expressed publicly that they are comfortable playing into their 40s, Smith seems to be optimistic that, even as he approaches 35, he, too, has years left of playing high quality football.
It's something Smith has stated previously, but carries more weight as he embarks on a new journey with his third team in the latter half of his career.
"I still feel like my best football is ahead of me certainly, I still feel like I have been ascending," Smith said. "I still feel like I haven't reached my potential which pushes me [and] challenges me to continue to strive to get better. I still feel like I am a young 34-year old and I do have a lot of ball ahead of me. I am excited to keep pushing that - push that ceiling. I still feel like I haven't reached it."
Check out these images of the Redskins reaching out to their younger fans Thursday July 26, 2018, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
4. Accuracy is a necessary strength in the West Coast offense.
One of Smith's best strengths is his accuracy, which is a necessary component to have in a West Coast offense. In his words, "when you talk about the West Coast offense it's intermediate to short-passing game, it's an extension of their run game it's timing, passing it's spacing, precision."
That was on display today, as Smith mostly worked on his mid-range game, not airing anything too deep out to start camp. He's already made some splashy, longer throws to Paul Richardson Jr. earlier in OTAs and certainly has the capacity to air it out. Just look at last season.
"As a quarterback you're asked [to be accurate] and essentially you're the point guard to run the system," Smith said. "That's a system I've been playing in a while now and I enjoy it, I do feel like it suits me. But, it's also I think a strength of the system and those all get tweaked certainly to your personnel and there's different flavors and no two offensive playbooks are totally alike. So, but yeah I do feel like going out there and I got to execute each and every play and that's all the different challenge especially based on what we're getting on the other side of the ball."
5. He's really excited to start working with tight end Jordan Reed.
Understandably, seeing Reed suit up for the first day of practice was an intriguing prospect for Smith, who has yet to develop an on-field rapport with one of the most talented tight ends in the game. Sure, they've tossed some passes to each other on the sideline, but eventually Smith will be looking his way in between the hash marks.
It won't happen right away, as Reed gets back to full strength from toe surgery in the offseason. But in the limited time that Reed was on the field, his presence had Smith's attention.
"Really excited to start that process," Smith said. "Like I said, I've watched a ton of film, played against him and I know what kind of player he is, you know, I mean, he is truly, truly unique, gifted special player, and it's hard to put it into words. He is a unique guy at the tight end position that can do so many things - route running with the ball in his hands after the catch. He is often times the guy that it doesn't really matter who's lined up against him, you know, linebacker, safety, corner, I mean he is a guy that I think has the skills set to win against all these positions so, yeah, we just got to get him back into full."