After nearly two years and 17 surgeries, Alex Smith has been miraculously cleared for football activities again.
The Washington Football Team is committed to 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins as their starter but he’s far from a proven commodity. What happens if the team falls in the standings early because of Haskins’ poor play and Smith is able-bodied on the sidelines? Could Washington opt to go with Smith with the hope that his risk-averse play and the team’s defense, which is projected to be a strength, will allow them to compete in the NFC East?
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Hurdles to Smith Starting Again Remain
In addition to Haskins’ presence on the roster, there are other hurdles to Smith starting again. For one, his leg was shattered and there’s no telling where his mental physique is.
Secondly, this isn’t the same offensive scheme where Smith produced admirably back in 2018. Jay Gruden is gone but the former No. 1 overall pick should be fine in this new scheme. The QB’s first offensive coordinator in the league (Norv Turner back in 2006) is the father of Washington’s OC, Scott Turner, so he may be able to pick up the somewhat familiar looks with some reps.
Getting those reps won’t be easy given the COVID-19 environment. It’s not clear how many fully-padded practices teams will have before the season starts. Neither Haskins nor Smith knows the team’s offense completely (Kyle Allen, who played under Ron Rivera and Norv Turner last year in Carolina may have the best knowledge of it currently) but it’s hard to envision Washington not giving Haskins all of the limited opportunities with the first team.
“Quarterback is a position you’ve got to have competition in,” new coach Ron Rivera said during the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this offseason. “Very competitive competition.”
During his final season in Kansas City, Smith led the league in passer rating. He had 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 15 starts (KC sat Smith in Week 17 to give Patrick Mahomes his first NFL start). His record with the Chiefs was 50-26. He led Washington to a 6-3 start to begin the 2018 season, though that 10th start was where he suffered his leg injury.
The Seattle-native tossed 10 touchdowns vs. just five picks and accumulated 2180 passing yards during the 2018 season. In his career, which includes long stints in San Francisco and Kansas City in addition to Washington, Smith has thrown for 193 touchdowns and just 101 interceptions. He has an overall record of 96-66-1 (yes, a tie).
Washington’s O/U for the 2020 season is set at 5.5 wins (GambetDC). If Smith was in peak form, that figure would be a few wins higher, as the team’s O/U was 7.0 entering the 2018 season. Does this create a betting opportunity? Perhaps, if you believe Smith can continue to overcome incredible odds against him taking snaps in the NFL again and take back the starting job in Washington.
More likely, the franchise makes the 36-year-old an emergency backup and allows him to either compete for the 2021 gig. They may even look to trade Smith to a QB-needy team. Regardless, expecting much from Smith in 2020 wouldn’t be wise.