The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
The Washington Football Team no longer has to wonder if Alex Smith can come back from the life-threatening leg injury he suffered on Nov. 18, 2018; he proved that weeks ago when he stepped in for Kyle Allen against the Los Angeles Rams.
The next step for Smith was to show he could be the starting-caliber quarterback he once was, and for the past two weeks, he has done that and more by completing 71% of his passes for 715 yards. In head coach Ron Rivera’s mind, Smith's recent performances have proven that after fighting through months of rehab, the 16-year veteran is back.
"There are still some things that he has to continue to work at, and he knows that," Rivera said. "He'll continue to work on them. This really was his first full week of work, but I think he's proved that he's back as a player."
Smith had already impressed several with his performance in Week 9 against the Giants. His 325 passing yards were his most in a single game since 2017, and his 68-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin was the 10th longest of his career.
But he was even better against the Detroit Lions with a career-high 390 yards and personal bests in attempts (55) and completions (38). His 69.1 completion percentage was the second-highest for a starting quarterback in franchise history with a minimum of 50 attempts, and he threw for 300-plus yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
And on top of that, Smith has not experienced any extra pain in his leg.
"Not at all," he said. "I think if anything, certainly the wear and tear of stacking days and days and days. And that's really the rest of my body included in that, not just my leg. But [I felt] nothing out there during the game. I felt great, still feel great. So that's a good sign."
Smith helped orchestrate a 21-point comeback in the second half, including a 17-play drive in the final three minutes to tie the score at 27. Rivera said afterwards that Smith played "a heck of a football game."
"I think he's getting more and more comfortable back there," Rivera said. "[The] decision-making is getting quicker. He's seeing some of the really good decisions, some excellent throws, put the ball where he needed to. It was good to see. It really was. Going forward, he's really just getting stronger and stronger."
Rivera is past judging Smith on his comeback story. His evaluation of Smith is strictly performance-based, and the quarterback has excelled among his peers. Smith has led the NFL in passing yards since entering the Giants game two weeks ago, and when asked if Smith could be considered as a long-term option for the team, Rivera said "possibly."
"Again, you've got to look at how much longer you think he can play, how much longer he does want to play," Rivera said. "If so, is he part of your plan? Again, that's something that we as a coaching staff and an organization have to talk about, most certainly, if this continues and if he continues to play at this high level."
Smith has already said he doesn't want to look at the implications of being the starting quarterback. He just wants to take things one game at a time and be grateful for each opportunity. But it's clear that Smith's comfort level is increasing, and that can only mean good things for Washington's offense.
"It felt really good, it felt really normal," Smith said. "I think I've got to pinch myself [with] how lucky I am to feel that way. I am lucky that it has progressed this far, and that I am where I am. Certainly a lot of people with similar injuries aren't as lucky."
-- Washington is discussing a change at kicker: Dustin Hopkins has been reliable for Washington since joining the team in 2015, but the 30-year-old veteran has struggled to start the 2020 season. Hopkins has made 70.6% of his field goals, which would be a career low. He has missed three in the past four games, and what's more frustrating is that Washington's last three losses have come by three points or fewer. Rivera has expressed confidence in Hopkins all season, but it seems a missed 43-yard attempt has the team evaluating its kicking situation.
"It's something that we are talking about and discussing," Rivera said. "The hard part is when you bring a guy in, you have to make sure you have a guy that fits you, that has a lot of experience because you're going to replace an experienced guy. Again, it's something that we're discussing."
-- Terry McLaurin continues to climb up the receiver rankings: Terry McLaurin had another stellar performance against the Lions with seven receptions for 95 yards, giving him 787 yards through nine games and pushing him to fourth in receiving yards. McLaurin has five games with at least 90 yards this season, and he is projected to finish the year with 101 receptions for 1,399 yards and five touchdowns. With Pro Bowl voting set to begin Nov. 17, McLaurin is making the case that he deserves to be one of the few receivers to earn the honor.
"Terry, I think, even as a rookie when he came in, was such a pro," Smith said after the Giants' game. "The way he went about his business, his work ethic -- he's such a good teammate. I think the thing I realized pretty quickly just watching -- especially on game day -- was the competitiveness that just kicks in with Terry. He really takes it up a whole other level. There aren't many guys that I have seen that can do that like he does. His willingness and...competitiveness, certainly combined with his talent, really makes him tough on Sunday. He's fun to watch. When he flips that switch on game day, you can see it. You can see it in his eyes. You can certainly see it in his play."
-- Jonathan Allen doesn't believe Chase Young's penalty cost Washington the game: With six seconds left in the fourth quarter and Washington trying to force overtime, Chase Young made the biggest mistake of his young career: he shoved Matthew Stafford after the quarterback had thrown a pass, forcing a roughing the passer penalty that moved the Lions from their own 35-yard line to midfield. Stafford then completed a nine-yard pass to Marvin Jones, setting up a 59-yard field goal from Matt Prater. Jonathan Allen said after the game he had not spoken to Young about the penalty yet, but if he could tell the rookie anything, it would be that he didn't single-handedly lose the game.
"I haven't met one person in the NFL who's ever played perfect," Allen said. "I haven't met one person who's never made a mistake. It is what it is. He didn't lose us the game. I promise you that. ...We have to look back as a team and as a unit, [see] what we gotta do to be better and move on from there. But not one person is to blame for this loss at all. Not even close."
Check Out What's On WashingtonFootball.com: