Alex Smith has always been considered a hyper-accurate quarterback during his time in the NFL. And his penchant for accuracy and lack of mistakes will certainly thrill Redskins fans everywhere.
For the better part of the last three seasons, the Washington Redskins were a solid team. At times, they looked like a potential playoff contender. And at times, Kirk Cousins looked like a franchise quarterback. But fans were often left with a bad taste in their mouth after confounding losses. And there was a reason for that.
Throughout his Redskins career, Cousins struggled with costly turnovers, particularly in the red zone, and poorly timed mental errors. These mistakes often put the Redskins in compromising positions, or shifted momentum to the other team. Granted, every quarterback makes mistakes, but Cousins’ mistakes often seemed to come at critical times. And that often cost the Redskins.
With Alex Smith, the story is the complete opposite. While Smith occasionally had trouble carrying his team to victory, it wasn’t due to mistakes that he made. Smith has excellent pocket awareness and great field vision that affords him the opportunity to find players in space and get them the ball. That does mean that he will sometimes become a checkdown machine, but the point is that he doesn’t consistently turn the ball over.
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Over the course of the past five seasons in Kansas City, Smith has thrown 102 touchdowns compared to just 33 interceptions. And in his career, Smith ranks No. 7 all-time in interception percentage, with just 2.1 percent of his passes resulting in picks. And since he joined the Chiefs, the number has been even lower at just 1.4 percent.
Comparatively, Cousins struggled with interceptions and turnovers when he was with Washington. In his three years as the primary starter with the Redskins, Cousins threw 36 interceptions, which was more than Smith had thrown in all his time at Kansas City. And Cousins’ lowest total, 11 picks in 2015, has only been matched by Smith three times in his career; twice in his first two seasons, and then most recently, he threw 12 interceptions in 2009. So, that alone dictates that Smith should be able to cut down on turnovers and help the Redskins win the field possession battle and score more points.
It’s also worth noting that Cousins’ Achilles heel was playing close to the red zone. He often struggled with interceptions in that area, and he was tied for second in the league with three picks inside the 20 in 2018 (trailing only DeShone Kizer).
Cousins’ stat line in the red zone looked like this: 53 percent completion rate, 17 touchdowns, three interceptions, and four sacks. Smith’s looked like this: 47 percent completion rate, 13 touchdowns, no picks, and four sacks. While they are close to identical, the fact is that Smith didn’t take any unnecessary risks and ensured that his team would always have a chance to get points. Cousins didn’t always do that, and that’s what led to the red zone struggles.
Even if you factor in adjusted interceptions, the results still hold the same truth, as NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay explored in a recent piece.
In short, the point here is that with Smith in the fold, the Redskins are going to have more fruitful drives. Because of his ability to avoid turnovers, and interceptions in particular, the team’s red zone woes should dissipate. And also, it will make the receivers more confident that Smith will be able to hit them with passes even in tight coverage. So all around, this should help the offense.
With each passing day, there is more excitement about Smith’s potential. In Jay Gruden’s offense, he should continue to be an upper level starter in the NFL. He may not always be able to carry the team to victory, but his smart, polished skill set could be exactly what the Redskins need to improve.