Rivera said he “can envision” Smith, who has miraculously cleared for football activities again after undergoing 17 surgeries, being part of the QB competition.
“He’s looked good, he really has,” Rivera said of Smith (via ESPN). “It’s been exciting to watch his progression. He’s looked very fluid. It’s a tribute to who he is, a tribute to his trainers and his doctors to get to where he is today.”
Rivera cautioned that there’s a difference between looking good in drills and showcasing the ability to be a starter in the league again.
“The big thing is if he can do the things we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the field,” Rivera said. “He’ll be part of the conversation most definitely. … We’ll see how he is this week.
It’s a matter of: Can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when on the field? He’s going to have to hand the ball off, drop back in the pocket and throw the ball. He’s going to have to escape. We have to make sure he can do those things and protect himself as he plays.”
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 once he gets hit.
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 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.
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.
“He’s done a great job studying and preparing and getting himself ready,” Rivera said of Haskins. “He’s been great. He’s been on the field doing things asked of him. He’s done the extra stuff he and I talked about in the offseason. He’s done the things I think put him right there where he needs to be at this junction. He’s done the job that I think deserves recognition.”