Here is what you need to know on Friday, September 7, two days before the Washington Redskins open their 2018 season against the Cardinals.
During OTAs, Jay Gruden was asked when during the season he expected Alex Smith to be acclimated to the offense.
“He has got to get it down by the first game,” said Gruden. “So, I think he is already close to having it down for the most part . . . We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built, and he has to lead it like right now. This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”
Now, the first game is at hand. Smith appeared in two preseason games, operating a smooth offensive series in the second one and having a rocky showing in the third one. History tells us that performances in the preseason are of little value for prediction Week 1 performances. And, for the most part Smith looked good in training camp practices in Richmond. As we know, those are of even less value as leading indicators.
The test will come on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Does Smith believe that he has been able to “get it down” to Gruden’s standard?
"I mean, yeah, yeah, I’m confident,” he said on Wednesday. “I am and we’re going to find out. There really was no other choice. I mean to get to the point of it, yeah. This date was sitting here. We knew that this was going to come regardless of opponent and you had to be ready to roll, all of us. Certainly, myself, getting caught up to speed, so yeah, there was no other choice and we’ll find out."
If that doesn’t sound overly confident or enthusiastic that’s because it’s almost impossible for him to really know how he will play on Sunday. As he has said more than once, the proof is in the pudding. Smith is not one to make bold statements.
Gruden also was cautiously confident that Smith will be ready.
"I hope so. I think that’s the goal,” he said. “You know, he’s a veteran quarterback. I know it’s a new system. I don’t expect perfection by any means, but we’ll dang sure strive for it. I think he’s a guy that can,”
The last time Smith was in this situation his team won, but he was well down the reasons why the Chiefs beat the Jaguars 28-2 in Kansas City’s 2013 season opener. Smith had been traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs during the offseason.
Smith completed 21 of 31 passes for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. That comes to 5.1 yards per pass attempt, an indication that he was playing it safe.
Smith was able to play it safe because his team’s defense controlled the Jaguars offense. They picked off two Blaine Gabbert passes, got six sacks and held the Jaguars to 107 yards passing and 178 total yards. That was a good defense that year as they finished fifth in the NFL in scoring defense under coordinator Bob Sutton.
While Smith did not rack up great numbers during the game, it’s what he didn’t do that perhaps was of the greatest importance—he didn’t do anything that would lose the game for his team. He had no interceptions and no fumbles.
Jay Gruden has said a few times that the common thread in the four season openers he has lost in four tries is turnovers. His quarterbacks had their hands in most of the giveaways. Robert Griffin III lost a fumble in his only Gruden opener start and in his three, Kirk Cousins threw five interceptions and lost two fumbles.
Having a quarterback who protects the ball—and Smith is one of the best in the game at doing that—will go a long way towards helping Gruden break the four-game losing streak in openers.
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No 53-man roster to project so I’ll take a shot at predicting the #Redskins inactives on Sunday.— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS) September 6, 2018
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Today: No media availability
Upcoming: Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 2 days; Home opener vs. Colts (Sept. 16) 9 days; Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 16
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