Jul 28, 2018; Richmond, VA, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) and Redskins quarterback Kevin Hogan (8) stand on the field during drills on day three of Redskins training camp at Washington Redskins Bon Secours Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest trade of the 2018 offseason in the NFL was arguably the Kansas City Chiefs sending quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick. The move directly impacted three quarterbacks and, curiously, the one who was traded has been the most overlooked over the last couple months. However, while Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and now-Minnesota Vikings signal-caller Kirk Cousins might have time on their side, Smith could be the one of the three who provides the most significant year-on-year improvement at the quarterback position for his respective team.
So, lets take a look at what we can expect from Smith in the Nation’s capital.
This offseason was not the first time when Smith could feel underappreciated. He had his best year to date in the 2011 season – with a PFF overall grade of 78.7 – just months before he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Fast forward six years and Smith got once again replaced just weeks after the highest graded season of his career – overall grade of 82.1. While Cousins has a tough task to live up to the expectations set by Case Keenum’s impressive season Vikings last season and Mahomes is expected to go through some growing pains in his first season as a starter, Smith represents an upgrade over Cousins’ 2017 season in Washington – one in which the Redskins offense was marred by numerous injuries.
Passing from a clean pocket
As PFF’s analytics department has highlighted recently, a quarterback’s performance from a clean pocket is one of the most predictive and stable data points collected by PFF. As a result, if a quarterback who does well from a clean pocket in one season is more likely to perform well from a clean pocket the next year rather than if we looked at his performance under pressure or using play action. This should be good news for the Washington fans as Smith led the league last season among quarterbacks with at least 250 dropbacks with a passer rating of 115.3 and threw just three interceptions on 505 attempts when kept clean.
Smith was kept clean on 67.0 percent of his dropbacks, the 11th-highest rate in the league. With the Washington offensive line once again healthy, there’s a good chance this figure actually goes up as we have ranked their offensive line the 12th best going into the season, compared to Kansas…