Quarterback Alex Smith saw Paul Richardson slipping behind deep coverage, a chance to make a statement in his first Redskins workout open to reporters. The ball floated a little, but it came down in the receiver’s hands.
There’s nothing wrong with pushing things a little bit, Smith said as he went through his first set of organized team activities since officially being traded from Kansas City in March. Even precision throws and short completions often arrived with rocket-like intensity Wednesday, forcing the defense to match Smith’s passion and elevating the atmosphere of the session to that of a summer practice.
The Redskins hope that fire will make fans forget about botched negotiations with former quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is in Minnesota now. His No. 8 jersey was worn Wednesday by third-string quarterback Kevin Hogan.
For Smith, the practice was an opportunity to showcase his leadership and continue to learn a new offense while shaking off a bit of rust.
Inside the Redskins’ practice bubble in Ashburn, the new franchise QB worked the ball all over the field. A short scramble led to an impromptu pass to Josh Doctson. Another went to Jamison Crowder down the sideline. A play fake saw Smith throw a frozen rope to fullback Elijah Wellman.
Coach Jay Gruden nodded in approval as Smith spread the ball around. Gruden knew Smith could quickly adapt to a West Coast scheme similar to the one he ran with the Chiefs, but everyone wanted to see how he looked applying what he learned by diagramming plays on a blackboard.
Smith said adapting to Gruden’s offense isn’t a huge change, likening the experience to learning different Latin-based languages.
“There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language,” he said. “I guess that’s the best analogy I can make.”
When Smith was looking crisp, safety D. J. Swearinger was waiting. The defense doesn’t like being sliced apart, even in non-contact drills. Swearinger remembered how Smith led the Chiefs to a 29-20 win over the Redskins last season. So when the quarterback tried to beat the safety with another deep ball to Richardson, Swearinger tipped it away.
“I already know what he’s going to do,” Swearinger said. “[He’s] trying to look me off.”
When Smith later tried to hit Richardson again, safety Montae Nicholson deflected it. Richardson and Nicholson traded taunts for 30 seconds. Things suddenly got heated.
“Competition is the only way to get better,” Smith said. “You’ve got to make each other better.”
Improvement comes in practice, and Smith upped everyone’s game. Even the running backs, well aware that second-round draft pick Derrius Guice is the tentative starter, blasted through holes with noticeable effort.
In his first open practice, Smith looked like the Redskins’ leader. That didn’t take long.