Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. He needs to clean up his “eyes and feet” after Monday’s game against the Saints
The consistent thread that plagued the Redskins offense on Monday were missed opportunities, primarily due to quarterback Alex Smith not finding his receivers in open windows.
That, he said, obviously needs to be cleaned up before the Panthers game this Sunday. His first point of analysis was his interception.
“I know myself, the handful of negative plays, clearly from me the interception,” Smith said. “Just to be able to miss on the fourth down, it's a big play there. If you see it right off the back, clearly from me, analyzing my mindset and thought process; eyes and feet, all that stuff and is that marrying up, obviously, with what we're doing.”
Smith said that he’s had conversations with head coach Jay Gruden about certain play calls and getting more into a rhythm, but it still comes down to executing, which he says didn’t happen.
“I have to play better,” Smith said. “That’s our job as players to do that. So, I think that’s natural as the coaches and players that we both want to try and help each other out. Certainly a bunch of players out there to be made by us and we left them out there. Yeah, I mean, listen I don’t want to get into too much or any of that other stuff. I just think that’s the nature of the player and coach relationship."
2. Running the ball well is always a priority for Smith
It’s a chicken and egg scenario for football teams, but when a team is running the ball well, they’re often winning, and when they’re not running the ball, they’re losing. The numbers show this to be true for the Redskins, who have played a significantly different brand of football depending on the outcome.
When the Redskins have won, they’ve averaged 4.5 yards per carry while in losses they’ve averaged 2.6 yards per carry. For a greater perspective, when the team has won, they’ve averaged 174 yards rushing, while only averaging 52 during losses.
“It's always easy in hindsight [because] I think the games you look at that we run the ball well, you have a bunch of attempts, you're in the rhythm, you're moving the chains, you're in an even game, back-and-fourth or even playing with a lead, you're running the ball in the second half,” Smith said. “So, it's hard to tell you what comes first.”
With Adrian Peterson injured early on and the Redskins falling behind quickly against the Saints, the run game felt abandoned on Monday, something Smith says wished didn’t happen so soon in hindsight.
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“I think in those games you do look back and say 'man I wish we would’ve hung with it a little more and stayed more balanced.' I think that’s natural,” Smith said. “I think that happens everywhere. But no question I think if we're going to be a good offense, you have to have balance. We have to be able to run the football multiple ways, no different than we have to be able to throw the ball multiple ways – down the field, horizontally, stretch them, misdirection, all that stuff.”
3. It’s important to be real with himself when watching the tape
Smith knows that one game won’t define the Redskins, but he hopes that his teammates all can separate their emotions from what the game film on Monday shows them.
“I think every guy in there has got to look at themselves in the mirror and be real with themselves, things they have to get better at, need to get better at to help this team and we all have them,” Smith said. “If you do that and then you do move on. It's one game. We're four games into the season. We have a lot of football left ahead of us. We're playing a really good football team right now, so we have new opportunity, new challenge, new week. I think once you do move on from it and start your prep, you do. You leave it behind you and get ready for this next challenge."
4. The short week of preparation has many challenges
The Redskins had about two weeks to prepare for the Saints on Monday night, thanks to the early bye week, but have less than half that to prepare for the Panthers this week. That comes with some challenges, starting with the fact that the Redskins missed a typical practice day on Wednesday after the coming home very early Tuesday.
Smith said that the team did get a bit of a start on preparing for the Panthers when they reviewed tape on the Arizona Cardinals to start the season. Because it was the first game of the season, they only had tape of the Cardinals’ new head coach Steve Wilks when he was defensive coordinator for the Panthers last year. The defensive schemes, Smith said, haven't changed too drastically from last year.
“We watched a good bit of Carolina film prepping for them, so there was a little bit of a foundation for that,” Smith said. “A short week, it's just a challenge all around. A challenge from a recovery standpoint, on a short week, getting back, throw in the travel, getting back here, getting healthy, getting ready to roll for Sunday and then mentally preparing for what you've got to prepare to digest the game plan to know in and out. So, all those little details that we talked about that showed up, you are there and making those."
5. There’s a lot that goes into trusting wide receivers
With wide receiver Josh Doctson out for Monday’s game, the Redskins leaned on Maurice Harris to carry some of his load. He played pretty well, grabbing three passes for 47 yards, and Smith targeted him multiple times in 1-on-1 coverage.
Still, Harris has missed time early in the season with a concussion and his rapport is not as strong as his peers. What does it take for Smith to have trust in him?
"I mean there is a lot that goes into that,” Smith said. “I think time and reps and I think trust that they are going to be aggressive for you. They are going to play fast and more often than not make you right. 'Mo' [Maurice Harris] is a guy I have a lot of confidence in, as in all these guys. You can't hesitate out there and I think all these guys have that kind of ability."