Alex Smith knows his receiving corps didn’t get much action in the Washington Redskins’ season-opening win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, so he made sure to show the wideouts some love on Wednesday. They have not been forgotten.
The Arizona defense took away much of the downfield action and allowed Smith to carve it up underneath through the running backs and tight ends, leading to a relatively boring night for Paul Richardson Jr., Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson.
The 24-6 win was an example of the offense’s diversity and its ability to react, as the Redskins weren’t exactly sure how the Cardinals would look with a new coach and new defensive coordinator.
“We didn’t know where that game plan was going to go, and I think there are going to be weeks like that,” Smith said. “There’s going to be other weeks where it comes in bunches and all of a sudden we are going to lean on [the wide receivers] offensively and we are going to need them and the ball is going to [go to them] a bunch. That’s the nature of week to week and just who you are playing.
“The great thing is we got a bunch of selfless guys out there. I think all they care about is winning. Obviously they want to be involved and included, but [they are] team-first guys. That’s not always the case at that position around the league, and it’s kind of a credit to the mind-set of those guys we have outside.”
Smith completed 21 of 30 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, but his wide receivers only received 13 targets. Richardson, Crowder and Doctson combined for eight catches for 65 yards while running back Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed combined for 10 catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The running game was so strong early, and totaled 182 yards on 42 carries, there was no need to push the ball downfield. Adrian Peterson even caught two balls for 70 yards.
Richardson noted that such individual weeks will pay bigger dividends long term. Teams will have to react and prepare for more work near the line of scrimmage and give Smith more favorable matchups on the outside and down the field.
“Last week we were moreso called to block and spread the defense out,” Richardson said. “They played a real safe defense last week, and AP and Chris Thompson were able to do their thing. That’s going to help. … I want them to keep doing it.
“Having an offense with a running quarterback that can pass and having those running backs that are catching the ball out of the backfield as well as making plays in between the tackles, you have to play honest on defense, which is going to add more people in the box and create more one-on-ones on the outside, which I’m looking forward to.”
The wide receiver depth took a hit this week with Trey Quinn and Cam Sims both suffering high ankle sprains during the game and needing surgery to repair them. Both were placed on injured reserve, and Brian Quick was signed after being released at the 53-man cutdown. Coach Jay Gruden said Reed would slide in as the backup slot receiver if something happens to Crowder. Depth on offense is a concern, but special teams took a bigger hit as Quinn and Sims held significant roles, with Quinn serving as the punt returner. Sims and Quinn could return later in the season.
Maurice Harris returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis after missing multiple weeks, but he remains in the concussion protocol. Gruden said Harris is allowed to do individual drills and progress from there. Quick could be active against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. He knows the system because he was with the team in 2017, and Washington may need the numbers. Gruden said Jehu Chesson is being moved up from the practice squad, and Chesson, Harris and Quick are the only receivers on the 53-man roster beyond the three regulars.
Gruden wasn’t concerned with the wide receivers’ low involvement Sunday.
The fifth-year coach acknowledged that he had trouble deciding on play-calls because so much was working. The different facets were on display from zone reads to power runs to outside zone and run-pass options. That’s exactly the type of variety Gruden wants from his scheme.
“Every week there is an element of that,” Smith said. “You don’t know where their point of emphasis is going to be, and I think throughout the week you prepare to have a sound game plan knowing that we don’t know. We don’t know whose turn it’s going to be. … You don’t know who is going to have that moment in that key situation, and I think good offenses prepare every single guy included to do their job, that when your number is called you make the play.”
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