Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. He appreciates Drew Brees's attention to detail.
With the likely potential to pass Brett Favre and Peyton Manning to become first on the all-time passing yards list this Monday, quarterback Drew Brees will continue to burnish a remarkable career.
The Redskins hope it won't come against them, but with only 200 yards passing needed, it will likely be the case.
"Those guys rewrote, I think, productivity for an aging quarterback in what they were able to do," Smith said of those three quarterbacks. "I think it wasn't by luck. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of training, a lot of taking care of their body that saw them able to be productive into their forties. I'm not sure Drew is forty yet, but anyway late into their career."
Smith, a San Diego native, has worked out with Brees in the offseason and appreciates the Saints quarterback's attention to detail, especially late into his career.
"I just think the continued work ethic," Smith said. "I think the continued attention-to-detail for a guy that already had a ton of success. I think it's easy to kind of, get relaxed, know you can roll it out there and be successful. I think the attention-to-detail that he continually has day in and day out, even this late into his career, certainly stands out in my mind."
2. Like his mindset against the Packers, the Redskins offense isn't worried about outscoring New Orleans
The point of emphasis for the Redskins offense against the Packers wasn't to be concerned with keeping up with Aaron Rodgers' high-scoring capabilities. After all, he wasn't their opponent. They ended up scoring 28 points in the first half, and the defense staved off Rodgers from coming back.
That's the same approach that Smith is taking into the team's game against the Saints. They rank third in points per game, averaging 34.2, while Brees is averaging 313.8 passing yards per game. On the flip side, New Orleans has allowed an average of 390 yards per game, 24th in the league, and has allowed an average of 311 passing yards per game, third to last in the NFL.
"You do that one play at a time, trying to go out and execute each and every single play," Smith said. "Whether that's controlling the ball or hitting big plays when they come. I think that all, that's encompassed in that — the attention-to-detail, one play at a time, executing that play. I think when you do that more often than not over the course of the game, good things happen and you put yourself in good situations."
3. The next progression for the offense is putting together consistent quarters
Each quarter of the NFL season is a good opportunity to self-reflect as a team, and while the Redskins have only played three games at this juncture of the season, they enter Week 5 knowing what needs to improve.
Primarily, it means scoring a touchdown in the second half, something they haven't been able to do this season.
"I mean, I don't think you can ever expect to go out there and not score any touchdowns in the second half and win ball games, against anybody, certainly against good offenses and good quarterbacks like Drew [Brees]," Smith said. "Need to be better moving forward, need to learn from it, and grow from it absolutely."
It's all about consistency for the Redskins, and while their first halves against Arizona and Green Bay were enough to keep them in the win column, Smith knows that avoiding those kind of lopsided performances coming out of the locker room are paramount.
"We've been good in red zone, short yardage situations, goal line – those things. Situational football, I think, wins football games more often than not in the league and continues to be good in those areas and then putting together four quarters, consistent football," he said. "In our two wins we've played lights out for a couple halves and then had some disappointing halves. I think the consistency of putting together four quarters."
4. Previous matchups against the Saints are useful, but just a piece of the puzzle
The Redskins, at least those on the team last year, still have a bad taste from last year's loss to the Saints. Quarterback Alex Smith didn't experience the frustration of blowing their two touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter, but he's still watched the tape to help see how New Orleans matched up.
There are some new faces on the Redskins this year (Smith included), much like on the Saints defense, so paying too close attention doesn't make a lot of sense for the quarterback.
"I think it is a piece of the puzzle with a lot of the other games you are looking at, but it is a new year, they've had a full offseason, a lot of games since then, so certainly not putting too much stock into it," Smith said.
Smith had a similar answer when asked about whether he can take away anything from his own victories against the Saints in his past.
"I don't necessarily put a ton of stock into those," Smith said. "I feel like these are all unique matchups, this is its own unique matchup, everybody is a different space, different place, that's unique to right now. It's finding a way to win this matchup. So yeah, I'm not putting a ton of stock in prior games or anything like that."
5. The Saints defense played their best game last week
If you read our scouting report earlier today, you'll know the Saints defense has struggled giving up big pass plays. It's a weakness the Redskins would like to take advantage of, but Smith wasn't so quick to pass judgment.
New Orleans did a better job in limiting some of those explosive plays against the Giants, primarily in holding Odell Beckham to only 60 yards on seven receptions.
"Certainly played their best game I felt like this week," Smith said. "Early on, they gave up some explosive plays down the field. Felt like they have been trying to iron it out as the season has gone on. They give you a lot to look at, a ton of different fronts up front, play a ton of coverages and they have the ability to do a lot. They make you prepare for a lot as well as an offense. I'm kind of figuring that out – seeing what direction they are headed in – like I said, coming off their best game this week."