Alex Smith favored the deep ball at his first training camp practice in Richmond. (Steve Helber/AP)
Sports Columnist

Maybe it was the wide blue skies in Richmond that inspired Redskins quarterback Alex Smith to go deep. After an offseason full of claustrophobic workouts inside a domed facility in Ashburn, Va., Washington’s new passer threw the ball far early and often throughout the first day of training camp Thursday in Richmond.

Smith dropped a dime in the corner of the end to receiver Josh Doctson. On another play, he rolled out and launched another deep ball to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Smith also completed a pass across the middle to Robert Davis and sneaked one past cornerback Josh Norman.

Safety D.J. Swearinger kept Smith from a perfect morning when he swiped a poor throw into double coverage. But the first day is supposed to yield mixed results, and Smith looked both unshackled in his new offense and unfazed by his mistake.

“I love that we just came out and started firing right away,” said the 34-year-old quarterback, who was traded from Kansas City in January.

Meanwhile, the pleasant demeanor rookie nose tackle Daron Payne has shown since draft day melted away Thursday when he lined up across center Chase Roullier. The first-round pick’s face drained of emotion, and he threw a swim move past the starting center. Proving no fluke, Payne later bulled past reserve center Demetrius Rhaney. The Redskins may just have an inside playmaker.

Ask tight end Garrett Hudson whether it was a physical day, even without pads. Hudson was getting ready to catch a ball from reserve quarterback Kevin Hogan when cornerback Kenny Ladler blindsided him with a hit that brought the practice’s biggest gasp from the crowd of around 500. Ladler was looking at the ball, not Hudson, when plowing through him for the interception.

That one looked like it hurt, but the team’s first injury was a quadriceps strain suffered by linebacker Zach Brown. He’s “day-to-day.”

Offensive tackle Trent Williams was looking as smooth as ever in his return from offseason knee surgery. In limited action, the offensive captain and six-time Pro Bowl selection looked to return to form.

After playing through pain last year, Williams looks to have regained his quickness and agility. That’s vital to the team’s success, because the left tackle will be able to spring holes for rookie running back Derrius Guice.

Maybe it was a coincidence that the first snap of training camp went to Guice, but the Redskins desperately need a featured back, and the second-rounder has been solid inside and out. Guice will be running behind Williams often.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad start by the team’s new stars.

Yet, coach Jay Gruden left the field in a bitter mood. More is needed. More is expected. And nobody will be happy unless the preseason turns into a postseason.

Read more from Rick Snider:

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Alex Smith is still adapting to Redskins, but his competitive fire is an immediate fit

Until Redskins figure out Josh Doctson, it doesn’t matter what receivers they sign