In his team’s second game of the preseason, Redskins coach Jay Gruden opened up his playbook and gave fans a peek into how he’ll use quarterback Alex Smith this fall. Smith directed just one series Thursday in a 15-13 win over the Jets at FedEx Field, but the six passes he threw to five different targets spoke volumes.
Smith is expected to play extensively when the Broncos visit the Redskins on Friday. Although he’s seen little game action so far, the new franchise QB has delighted Gruden by quickly picking up the playbook since arriving in an offseason trade from Kansas City. Rookie running back Derrius Guice is already out for the season with a torn ACL, so Smith will have to shoulder even more of the offense.
But what will that offense look like? Will Smith concentrate his attention on throws over the middle to Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder? Or is he likely to take more deep shots to Paul Richardson? Can Smith flash a little more of his running ability to keep linebackers guessing? Perhaps the Redskins will just dink-and-dunk down the field.
“I don’t think there is anything we can’t do or won’t do,” Smith said.
His one series against the Jets proved that. Smith went 4-of-6 for 48 yards, and rookie receiver Trey Quinn dropped a pass in the end zone. Smith looked like he was playing chess while the Jets were playing checkers, maneuvering much like he did in practice throughout training camp.
His first throw was a quick strike to Richardson on a naked bootleg that he released as he was being hit by linebacker Jordan Jenkins. The pass gained 8 yards before an unnecessary roughness flag added another 15. It might have been a sack or incompletion if Smith’s predecessor, Kirk Cousins, had been running the play.
After a 1-yard run by Rob Kelley, Smith hit Vernon Davis with a play-action pass that the tight end turned from a 5-yard throw into a 16-yard gain. Routes by Richardson and Josh Doctson drew defenders away from Davis on that play, which will be one of the few times in the preseason that Gruden shows something fancy on film. It worked because Smith waited for the play to develop.
On his next three throws, Smith threw incomplete to Kelley in tight coverage, found Doctson for 11 yards over the middle and checked down to Kelley for 13 yards to push the ball to New York’s 10. Two runs by Kelley set up a third-and-goal from the 4. Quinn, the rookie from SMU, got open on a slant route from the slot but couldn’t grab Smith’s pass on a well-defended play.
Overall, Smith showed a lot of capabilities in just one series. He didn’t find Richardson long, but did connect with the deep threat on a short pass. Smith was patient on an inside pass to Doctson. And as for the attempt to Quinn, Smith trusted a rookie to reach an assigned spot. That’s also something Cousins might not have done.
It was a small taste, and Smith probably won’t show much more against Denver. But the 14th-year pro is obviously ready for the regular season and has already established chemistry with his targets.
That means Smith and the offense are idling until the regular season kicks into gear.
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