“Alex is a good dude; he talks to everybody,” said running back Chris Thompson, divulging one way his quarterback is working to build chemistry behind the scenes. “We had three meetings [Wednesday], and he sat in a different spot every single time, just trying to talk to different guys and get a feel for everybody on the team. And I think that’s great. That’s a trait from our quarterback you like to see.”
At 34, Smith is a proven NFL veteran. But he enters his 14th season as the leader of a Redskins offense that isn’t at full strength at the start of camp. Several key starters — including his blind-side protector, left tackle Trent Williams; right tackle Morgan Moses; tight end Jordan Reed; and Thompson — are sidelined because of their rehab schedules.
Conversations are key to building a rapport, but it’s the practice time that matters most.
“There’s no substitute for just reps,” Smith said matter-of-factly.
Every quarterback needs weapons. But it’s unclear when Smith will have his full arsenal.
Williams, who sat out organized team activities as he recovered from knee surgery, was a spectator during Thursday’s training camp session. Reed, who underwent two separate toe surgeries, did individual drills but was mostly limited in his first practice with Smith. And Thompson, who suffered a season-ending fractured right fibula eight months ago, said he “honestly” doesn’t know when he will be full go. “We’re just kind of taking it day-by-day based off how I feel,” the shifty running back said. “It’s just taking it slow right now. . . . I’m just trying to get a feel for Alex in seven-on-seven [drills] and things like that.”
But even with so many starters on the sideline, Smith finds ways to put in work with his skill players. “There is a system, I think, to bringing some of these guys back and continue to get work where you can,” he said. “Throwing with Jordan on the side when I can, getting C.T. reps here and there. . . . Those guys slowly get back into game speed — we’ll have time for that.”
If there’s a benefit to being without so many players, it’s this, new wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr. said: depth.
“You can say that we’re not at full strength, we’ve got guys missing, but what happens when they go down during the season?” he asked. “The twos have to come in for the ones. I’m confident just because we’ve been with these guys all offseason and they aren’t the ones. So even more confidence is going to come when those guys are in the huddle. So I think we’re going to be all right.”
Reed — who said he’s feeling “100 times better” than he did a year ago — maintained that the Redskins’ offense will be “explosive” in 2018, while Richardson highlighted the offense’s versatility. “We’ve got [second-round pick Derrius] Guice in the backfield. We’ve got Thompson in the backfield. Then at receiver . . . none of us play the same, but all of us play at a high level,” the former Seahawks pass-catcher said. “That’s what helps us the most: the fact that we all bring different things to the table and we’re all good at them.”
So far, it appears the transition from former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to Smith has been seamless for players and coaches alike. Some pundits may question whether Smith’s arrival will be the upgrade Washington hopes. But Smith maintained that he isn’t concerned about his detractors.
“I feel like my best football’s still ahead of me, certainly,” said the quarterback, who had his best statistical season last year with Kansas City: a career-best 4,042 passing yards, along with 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions. “I still feel like I haven’t reached my potential, and that still pushes me, challenges me to continue to try to get better.”
He then added with a smile: “I feel like I’m a young 34-year-old and I do have a lot of ball left ahead of me, and I’m excited to kind of keep pushing that, push that ceiling. I still feel like I haven’t reached it.”
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