Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, September 5, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. He's ready for Week 1.
The anticipation is rising for Week 1, the regular season debut of Alex Smith in a Redskins uniform.
The quarterback has had this game circled on his calendar for a while, and though question marks about whether the offense is ready to roll still linger, he believes all the moving parts will come together based on the practices they've had together.
"I mean, yeah, yeah, I'm confident. I am and we're going to find out," Smith said. "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."
2. Starting fast is important, but there are so many variables to hit the ground running in Week 1.
The concern for head coach Jay Gruden is breaking his 0-4 record during season openers. In other words, the concern is to win. While each game is different and has its own unique challenges, the Redskins would like to come out of the gate strong and put themselves in the best position before taking on division rivals.
Smith has experience with starting fast. His Kansas City teams went 4-1 in the last five years to open a season, punctuated last year when the Chiefs took down the Patriots on opening night.
"I try to think about some commonality with these openers. It's hard," Smith said. "I mean the opponents are all different, we're all different every year, so I mean it's hard, I think, to always find a commonality I mean just to say that. I know that you can look at those and think there is some kind of correlation or something, but I think these are all kind of their own kind of individual fights and we have to find a way to beat Arizona. I mean that's it."
Smith has enough experience in the league to know that one game won't define the Redskins.This team has made the playoffs after losing the first game, after all. However, as a way to calm nerves and enter the home opener with more confidence, a victory would be a strong step forward and a sigh of relief.
"You prepare the best you can to go win a game. I think it's a fine line too...you can get too overhyped with this and think this game is going to define your season and it's one of 16. Every team wants to start fast, every team wants to go 1-0 this week, but at the same time, I mean realize that, you know, it's football. Someone's going to win and someone's going to lose it's not the end of the world. It's not going to define us, but certainly, we are trying to start fast."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
3. The Cardinals can create a lot of chaos up front.
Smith and co. finally have an opportunity to dedicate their whole week to preparing for an opponent, and the quarterback knows that the Cardinals won't make it easy crowding the box.
With defensive lineman Chandler Jones leading the charge, and a preseason in which they led the league in turnovers – eight against the Cowboys certainly helps – the Cardinals have made Smith aware of the disruption they can bring.
"Yeah, they're good personnel on the defensive side of the ball, really experienced on the back end," Smith said. "You know, one of the premiere corners [cornerback] in the league with Patrick [Peterson] and they're really, really active upfront. They get after the passer, they're disruptive. I think they led -- I mean they had a ton of sacks in the preseason, I don't know if they led the NFL, a ton of turnovers all kind of created from that. They can create a lot of chaos; they do a lot up front, like I said, very active. Then, there's the unknown. They have a new head coach who's a defensive guy. A little bit of the unknown out there that you have to prepare for."
4. Smith is still giddy about the season opener.
All strategy aside, it's an exciting time for players.
The season opener is full of possibility, much like the entire season ahead, and taking the field for the first time in a game that counts will never get old.
"Absolutely. Yeah, I mean I think every year. It's been a long time since our last game, for all of us. It's exciting," Smith said. "I mean, I think that's part of the reason you keep playing is that feeling. That feeling of, you know, being alive and putting yourself out there, the vulnerability of it. No questions, we're going to go do it together and I mean that's the great thing about the team sport element. I think it's the greatest game. We're devising our plan, they're devising their plan and we need to go out there and try to execute it."
While there isn't too much known about how this team will look, with every part moving in unison, the intrigue and potential is there.
"You're setting sail and going to find out," Smith said. "Certainly it is a journey. I mean I think over the course of the season, it's not always the same. Teams ascend and teams descend over the course of a year and so, like I said though, I do think it just comes down to trying to just win this game and a little bit of the, yeah, there's some blind faith that we all put into this."
5. Smith is impressed with the way Adrian Peterson has caught up with the offense.
The running back came into the fold late in the preseason – just a couple days before the third game – but has made tremendous progress, according to his quarterback.
"I think how quickly he's gotten up to speed," Smith said. "Mentally, I think he's worked really hard at getting caught up to speed in all facets of the running back position. Certainly, protections, I think, are the most complex, you know, coming in, trying to master our system as fast as possible."
Head coach Jay Gruden mentioned how he didn't want Peterson taking too many snaps against the Broncos because he hadn't learned much of the playbook just yet – some of the third down responsibilities were just added information that wouldn't help his acclimation. That shouldn't be too much of an issue on Sunday, a couple weeks into his tenure in Washington.
At least to Smith, the mental game is the only thing he's worried about when it comes to Peterson.
"Physically I still think there aren't many limitations that I see, so really I think from a mental standpoint, getting caught up enough that when you go out there, you can let those physical tools take over," Smith said. "You know your stuff and you can go out there and play. I think that's kind of what we're all trying to do."