Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, October 24, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. Adrian Peterson personifies what the Redskins want to be.
Arguably the team's MVP through the first six games of the season, Adrian Peterson has defied all expectations with the Redskins. That starts with his production, but as quarterback Alex Smith will tell you, it goes deeper.
To complement his 438 rushing yards, Peterson has remained dedicated to his craft, fighting through multiple injuries to make sure he's been available for every game. Dislocated shoulder? No problem. Injured knee? Not an issue. Peterson still runs hard, takes on contact and has safeguarded the football, too.
"I think he's embodied kind of a little bit of what we want to be about not only as an offense but as a team," Smith said. "I just think the way he's played on that edge – physical, relentless. I think that's what we want to be about, not only as an offense, but a football team playing with that kind of an edge all the time. That kind of physicality certainly helped set the tone for us quite a few times this year."
The Redskins know that once Peterson starts picking up solid chunks on first down, the entire offensive playbook opens up, putting defenses on their toes and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
2. The Giants still pose a threat with their playmakers.
You may have heard the Giants traded away some of their better defensive players. This week included shipping starting cornerback Eli Apple to New Orleans and starting defensive tackle Damon Harrison to Detroit. The defense will likely take a bit of a hit.
This is good news for the Redskins, who travel to New York this weekend to take on a Giants team that's won just one game so far this season. It also might make this feel like a bit of a trap game. As Smith and the rest of the players tell it, that won't be an issue.
"They're a good football team," Smith said. "I mean, turn on the tape. I think the bunch of games they've been in, had chances to win versus really good football teams. Been only a couple plays away here and there and it's a division game. It's early in the season. They're a prideful group and this is going to be a… we'd be lying to ourselves if we didn't think this was going to be a physical test. So yeah, I think that's it. I mean it's easy when you turn on the tape and see that these guys aren't that far away."
Smith, also wary of how trades can affect teams, believes the Giants could use the recent trades as more motivation to win on Sunday.
"I'm not going to get too wrapped up in that. Who knows how they'll take it?" Smith said. "Maybe it's going to fire them up if anything. Maybe they get, you know. Who knows the psychology of all that and I certainly don't want to get caught up in it I guess. For us, trying to prepare for them, whoever is out there, all those guys have played all year anyway, in and out, so [we are] getting ready for them collectively as a group."
3. The Redskins have room to improve, but are trending in the right direction
While Washington is in first place, it knows there is much to improve. The offense, for example, continues to struggle in the second half of games, missing opportunities in the end zone. The Redskins have won two in a row, yes, but outcomes don't always define a linear progression.
"For us certainly, when you look at us as a unit, yeah that's what I'm talking about as a unit that we are moving in the right direction," Smith said. "But like I said, as a team, the challenge every week is to find a way to win as a team. All three phases, whatever that takes to win that matchup and how do you get that done, that's the problem you are trying to solve every week.
"I think the exciting thing is that certainly there is a lot of room for improvement for us out there, especially offensively as a unit, that we've left some plays out there for sure," he added. "Encouragingly, when we start hitting some of those, obviously we will be that much better."
4. The incompletion to Jeremy Sprinkle in the end zone was a bit of a miscommunication.
The Redskins designed an ideal play-action bootleg for Smith in the third quarter as they looked to break a 7-7 tie against the Cowboys. A fake handoff to Peterson allowed tight end Jeremy Sprinkle to become wide open as he curled out towards the sideline.
Smith, rolling to his right, overthrew him. The Redskins would eventually kick a field goal. The play was there, but the execution was missing.
"Yeah looking at it in hindsight, that for me, not to delve into it too far, I was expecting him to flatten and run away and obviously as he kept running for the corner then it was a matter of obviously too much air on that throw and it just sailing," Smith said. "But, that was my mindset as I came out with the safety chasing him from behind."
Smith admitted that the incompletion could be a slight product of his transition to the offense and not being quite on the same page as his playmakers, but knows that pass must be made.
"You can't get it all repped out here," Smith said. "But, that's on us as players to make the play. I think sometimes you've got to go out there and just make the play, so certainly that was one I missed."
5. He's getting used to his newer targets as starters recover from injury.
The Redskins haven't been immune to the injury bug this year, especially at the skill positions. That means Smith has had to adjust to newcomers and backups just as much as his starting rotation at wideout and running back.
With Paul Richardson Jr., Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson missing last week's game, Smith has needed to find a quick rapport with Maurice Harris, Brian Quick, Michael Floyd and Kapri Bibbs. The more he works with them, the more trust he banks.
"I think certainly had more and more reps with those guys not only in practice but in games," Smith said. "You know the next guys up and continue to take advantage of those reps. I think that's all been great work for us and it is always a progression that you're working towards. But yeah, it's been great work and obviously we hope to get those guys back as soon as possible. But I think that's only a good thing to build a rapport with the guys that have stepped up."