Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's media session with reporters on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. He thought Jonathan Cooper stepped in well last week.
Though he had a couple of holding penalties, left guard Jonathan Cooper acquitted himself nicely during Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Considering he joined the team last Monday and didn't start practice until Wednesday, the lineman worked his way back into shape over the course of just a couple days, and underneath the 80-degree sun, had a strong day in pass protection.
His quarterback, being blocked by a rotating cast, was impressed.
"I think the task that was in front of him to come in on a short week, get up to speed and then go out there and execute, I thought was a tall task," Smith said. "It's a good D-line, definitely the strength of their defense. I though he played great. I know he had a couple flags on him. The one on the screen [play] I thought was borderline, very questionable, but I thought he played great. I thought he went out… I think it'd be easy in that situation to be tentative and hold back. I thought he didn't blink in the huddle around him. I thought he almost relished the challenge of it and I thought that was really neat to be around."
2. The offense is slowly becoming more consistent, and execution is improving.
Though quarterback Alex Smith threw for just 178 yards (for the third time this season) last Sunday against the Buccaneers, the Redskins came home with a 16-3 victory. The offense struggled situationally, particularly in Tampa's end of the field, but a couple of penalties, a couple of missed throws, and Smith feels as though a couple more scores were within reach.
One play involved a screen pass to running back Kapri Bibbs, which would have added at least 40 yards to Smith's stat line, if not for the holding call, and moved the ball into Buccaneers territory. The other comes during the team's four-minute drill, when Smith missed a streaking Vernon Davis by a foot with a deep pass that caught the secondary off guard.
"I think looking at the film there's such small things that we talk about that we're so close to – all of a sudden – it being a 28-point game very easily," Smith said. "I think even if you count the drive before the half – the two-minute drive – I felt like on a third-and-four that we didn't execute on easily, could have been converted into a touchdown potentially. Yeah, not very far away from scoring a lot more points. So, situational things we do talk about. But certainly, the turnover we had where we only walked away with three (field goal) – hit the ball to Vernon [Davis] – all of a sudden, I think you convert two or three of those and all of a sudden it is almost a 30-point game."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Week 11 game against the Houston Texans Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
3. The Texans boast a very disruptive defensive front.
It doesn't get any easier for a patchwork Redskins offensive line this week. Between J.J Watt and Jadeveon Clowney alone, the line should have its hands full.
In nine games this season, Watt has nine sacks and Clowney has 5.5. They've elevated a Texans defensive line particularly in the run game though in recent weeks. Watt has totaled 21 run tackles and Clowney has recorded 16, making things extremely difficult for opposing running backs.
That will put some added pressure on running back Adrian Peterson this week, and if the Redskins struggle to establish the run, the offensive line will need to be sharp again to provide Smith enough time to throw the ball.
"They are one of the most disruptive fronts in football," Smith said. "I think when you just talk about just creating problems, penetration. They're all over the place. They obviously are really, really talented. They get up the field. They're well-coached. I think together as a defense they've been together a long time. The bulk of that defense has been together, so they know what they're doing. They play fast, but certainly, I think it does start with how disruptive they are up front."
4. He looks forward to the growing magnitude of games as the end of the season comes into focus.
The Redskins are in first place. They're 6-3 with a two game lead over their division opponents. This is what Smith is used to, being in control of his destiny.
Instead of giving a more generic answer about how he approaches the second half of the season and its growing importance as the end nears, Smith offered a little more than "every week is important" boilerplate.
"I think you only want the magnitude of the weeks to get bigger and bigger and that's why you're playing. You want it to get bigger, you want it to increase and that's a good thing if that's happening," Smith said. "I don't know if we are there yet, we're in the bulk of our season. At this point, the games are big every single week. But obviously as the season goes on, they get more and more magnified and I think that's a good thing. I think when you are still in the meat of the season though it's way too early to start getting into the math and things like that."
5. He and Josh Doctson are continuing to find a rhythm together.
Though the expectations for him are still lower than where the team might like them to be, wide receiver Josh Doctson has caught at least three passes in five consecutive games. He and Smith have connected for touchdowns in the red zone in back to back weeks, too.
While he hasn't erupted for a breakout game just yet, it's clear that the connection between Smith and Doctson is growing. The trust is emerging and Smith is recognizing the kind of player that Doctson can be.
"I think a ton of that comes from the communication that's put in, the work out on the practice field talking about all those different things, then going out there and doing it," Smith said. "He's a guy that obviously has incredible ball skills. I think he's a physical receiver and he's played that way for the last few weeks, really physical. He's a guy that often times when you do play X, you are getting pressed a lot and I think he's done a great job against that against different types of guys, playing physical, playing big and I think [he] made a bunch of big kind of traffic catches the last few weeks."