For a few brief moments, Redskins fans held their breaths.
On the very first play of his Redskins debut under center, quarterback Alex Smith faked a handoff and tossed a short pass to wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr., bracing himself for a pounding from Jets defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd. Smith hit the ground hard, saw yellow laundry hit the field shortly after and then jogged up to greet his wide receiver who had gained eight yards.
A roughing the passer penalty to start Smith's Redskins career wasn't exactly what Washington had envisioned, but that was the extent of his potentially injurious dramatics in Thursday night's 15-13 victory over the Jets. Smith composed himself and completed 4-of-6 passes for 48 yards, hitting four different receivers en route to an opening field goal drive in front of the home fans at FedExField.
"It was good. Not necessarily expected," Smith said of being hit right away. "But yeah, I thought it was fun on the first play to kind of just wipe away any cobwebs or anything like that. Haven't been hit in quite a few months. Nice to get kind of get back in football mode. We've been wearing those yellow jerseys too long. So it's nice to be a football player again."
After a handoff to running back Rob Kelley, who stayed in the backfield the entire drive, Smith checked down to familiar tight end Vernon Davis on a crossing route for 16 yards. After another handoff and incomplete pass to Kelley, Smith connected with wide receiver Josh Doctson on a dig route in the middle of the field for 11 yards to pick up a first down.
Smith continued to rely on Kelley as a pass catcher, hitting him over the middle of the field and watching him run for another first down for 13 yards. He continued to feed Kelley twice more on the ground for six combined yards to face third down at the Jets' 4-yard line.
Smith targeted wide receiver Trey Quinn on a slant route but the ball was thrown just slightly behind him and the pass was broken up.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins made the drive count with the first of five field goals to give the Redskins the early lead.
"It was good. We got some first downs and moved the ball," Smith said. "Obviously, being able to score points was great. Would of loved to finish the drive off. But we did some good things. It was kind of the story of the night with us, moving the ball down in the red zone and then coming away with field goals. Luckily, defense kind of bailed us out and [Dustin] Hopkins hit one there at the end. Plenty of steps for us to work on, but some good things as far as that first drive."
Quarterback Colt McCoy replaced Smith on the next offensive series, but Smith felt good about his opportunity and knows he'll have some more next week against the Broncos.
"You always wish you could play more. It's a fine line. I know we'll get more time next week," Smith said. "You get it the longer you play. Preseason is really about finding the 53 guys for this team. This is about the team and where we need depth. I thought we had some great shots that tonight, young guys making plays, helping us finish this game off."