Alex Smith is a patient man, perhaps too much at times. His reputation as a game manager formed over 13 years in the NFL, as the three-time Pro Bowler won’t force the ball into spots and risk unnecessary turnovers. That’s not an insult, as Smith has managed his way to playoff berths and many more victories than losses and hasn’t thrown more than eight interceptions in a season since 2010.
However, there are days such as last Sunday, when the Colts welcomed the Redskins to take the safe, underneath throw as part of their game plan. That worked in Indianapolis’s favor with a 21-9 victory, raising questions about whether Washington was aggressive enough through the air.
“Yeah, you do look back at that and are like, maybe this one play in the first half, should I have held it a tick longer and taken a shot?” Smith said. “Or could I have looked this off and gone here?
“That’s kind of the game you play with the what-ifs in a situation like that. It’s hard, though, when you have limited opportunities. You expect to have more opportunities and we didn’t have them. Then . . . the second half kind of got one-dimensional.”
Smith explained that staying patient was part of the Redskins’ game plan, as they expected the Colts to play a lot of zone with two deep safeties preventing big plays. The Redskins missed a few chances, with drops by Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr. and a fumble by Jordan Reed. There were downfield options that Smith decided to pass up on and go elsewhere. The Redskins also could have called more longer passing plays. The quarterback completed 33 of 46 passes for 292 yards without a touchdown or interception. Running back Chris Thompson had game-highs in targets (14), receptions (13) and receiving yards (92).
Smith and Coach Jay Gruden also pointed to the team’s 33 percent conversion rate on third downs, which limited the Redskins’ possessions and prevented the offense from getting into any kind of rhythm.
“Anytime something doesn’t work or you’re out of rhythm, out of sync, the next day you’re kicking yourself,” Smith said. “Could we have done things differently? Yeah, maybe. Could have executed a lot better, too. Combination of all those things put together.
“It’s a fine line. You fight that battle, right? Should we stay patient with this? We want to stay patient with this. Then the next day maybe you are saying, maybe I should have gone a different direction quicker.”
The new Redskins quarterback calls it all a process. Developing chemistry with the receivers. Shoring up the protection calls with center Chase Roullier. And now he has two new receivers after Washington signed former first-rounders Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman this week.
Richardson added that they need to catch the ball better and that more big plays could come from getting the ball in receivers’ hands quicker and allowing them to make a defender miss and run after the catch.
“It’s a process that never ends,” Smith said.
There’s also a showdown with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming this weekend, when the Redskins will need to keep up with what could be a fast scoring pace from Green Bay. Rodgers, even though he is dealing with a knee injury, is one of the most dangerous passers in the league.
Several Redskins said there isn’t additional pressure when facing an offense like Green Bay’s, but Richardson acknowledged the need to start fast and play well throughout. Maintaining possessions is another key.
“Teams like that, you’ve got to keep those guys off the field,” Richardson said. “That’s a big part of operating against an offense like that that can score, pretty much, at any time. . . . We’ve got to do a good job on offense, taking care of the ball, not turning the ball over, and we’ve got to put pressure on them.”
There seems to be opportunity for success against a Packers pass defense that ranks No. 26 in the league and features a young secondary. The Redskins’ passing game has been efficient, but that’s mostly because Thompson, Reed and running back Adrian Peterson have a combined 34 receptions for 358 yards of Smith’s 54 completions for 547 yards.
Smith admitted to second-guessing some decisions after viewing the game tape of the Colts’ loss, but that was far from the only issue.
“The [playbook] shrinks quite a bit when you have third-down-and-20 four times,” Gruden said. “Some games are like that.”
Troy Apke (hamstring), Zach Brown (oblique) Shawn Lauvao (calf) and Paul Richardson (shoulder/knee) did not practice Wednesday. Gruden called Lauvao day-to-day and said Tony Bergstrom would play center and Chase Roullier would slide to left guard if Lauvao can’t play. Brandon Scherff (knee) and Trent Williams (knee) were limited. Wide receiver Maurice Harris (concussion) has been cleared to practice, but the team will continue to monitor him before letting him play in a game.
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