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Alex Smith faces criticism as Washington’s offense stumbles

If you merely looked at the NFL standings, you might think things are going great in Washington.

Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and his team lead the NFC East with a 5-3 record and it has won three of its last four games.

Nevertheless, the Washington offense ranks 25th in total offense and scoring, and fans are not thrilled with Smith, who was traded from the Chiefs to D.C. during the offseason.

Many of the same complaints Chiefs fans had about Smith are being uttered in the nation’s capital: he’s a great game manager, but there are limitations.

This week, Smith was the subject of a Washington Post column and an ESPN analysis. Unsurprisingly, there has been Twitter chatter this season. Here is what is being said about Smith.

Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post wrote a column with the headline, “Nothing’s wrong with Alex Smith, and that’s a sobering fact for (Washington)”.

This is an excerpt of what Brewer wrote: “He’s halfway through a season that makes many miss Kirk Cousins and others — desperate, extreme others — call for backup Colt McCoy. But in the context of his career, Smith is as ordinary as usual. Despite leading a passing game that ranks 24th of 32 NFL teams, Smith is on pace to throw for 3,734 yards, which would be the second-highest total of his 13 pro seasons. He is completing 63.5 percent of his passes, and that is lower than his accuracy rate during five seasons in Kansas City but a hair higher than his career percentage. With just three interceptions, he is on pace to throw fewer than 10 picks for a remarkable eighth consecutive year, but he also could finish with fewer than 20 touchdown passes for the ninth time in 13 seasons.

“Consider his track record. Consider that this is one of his more successful transitions to a new coach or new team. And then consider how unimpressive it all seems in the moment. Smith, 34, is under contract for four more seasons after this one, with a contract extension about to kick in that will guarantee him $71 million. Washington didn’t purchase a savior, and it understood that at the time. It bought the most expensive base layer of clothing in the NFL. …

“Yes, team building is a fluid thing. There is always a hole somewhere. Every team must defer addressing certain issues. But Washington isn’t in the first year of a rebuild. There has been plenty of time to have both an improved defense and a stable offense. The imbalance is the result of some mismanagement as well as bad luck.

“And here stands Smith now, the new face of the predicament. He’s just playing his game, really. You can’t like what you’ve seen thus far, but again, he’s just supposed to be a base layer. Where’s the rest of this offense? He’ll be fine if Washington makes the situation fine. But now you should understand why, for all the victories his teams have amassed, San Francisco and Kansas City both moved on to younger quarterbacks with higher upsides.

“Washington traded for Smith and extended him after he was coming off a career year. But as Patrick Mahomes has shown in Kansas City this season, there’s even more that a quarterback can do with all the offensive talent the Chiefs have. Smith contributed to his old team becoming an offensive juggernaut. The difference, however, is that Mahomes can accentuate all of Kansas City’s strengths.

“With his new team, Smith inches toward better.”

You can read more of what Brewer wrote here.

ESPN’s John Keim wrote that Washington needs Smith to deliver more in the passing game.

Here is an excerpt of what Keim wrote, “(Washington) moved into first place by relying on a strong running game with Adrian Peterson, stopping the run and good special teams. But through eight games, the Redskins rank 22nd in the NFL in passing yards per game, 23rd in yards per attempt, 29th in touchdown passes and 25th in offensive points scored per game.

“They haven’t shown they can come back in games; they haven’t led in their three losses.

“(Washington) not only traded for Smith in the offseason, they gave him a four-year extension that averages $23.5 million per year. They need him to deliver in times of need. Like now.

“He’s helped by not turning the ball over, with only three interceptions and one fumble lost. He’s on pace for 18 touchdowns and six interceptions, which would match his output in 2014, his second season in Kansas City. …

“Smith made some pinpoint throws (Sunday) against the Falcons, connecting with receivers Josh Doctson and Maurice Harris for gains of 24 and 33 yards, respectively. There are plays (Washington) hit on every game; there are frustrations over missed opportunities as well, whether from wrong reads or inattention to detail with routes. Their passing has become a Rorschach test: Do you see progress or inconsistency?”

You can read more of what Keim wrote here.

While the following wasn’t written this week, another Post columnist wondered last month if the Washington offense had a ceiling.

Barry Svrluga wrote in part: “But the nagging question early in Smith’s stint in Washington is: What if a limited offense led by a limited quarterback ends up being … well, limited?

“Be honest here: Do you glance at the Minnesota results, even click through to the box score, to check on the Vikings’ new quarterback? No shame in doing so. Kirk Cousins had a very Kirk Cousins game Sunday against Arizona, going 24 for 34 for 233 yards. He threw for a touchdown and ran for another. But he also threw a pick and was stripped for a fumble that was returned for a score.

“Is Washington better off with Smith? That’s a hard TBD at the moment.

“What we know: Smith is smart enough, experienced enough, disciplined enough and athletic enough to be a winning quarterback in this league — which is what he has been. But in two cases, the team that employed him felt it had a more dynamic option and moved on — San Francisco to Colin Kaepernick, Kansas City to current ‘it’ boy Patrick Mahomes.

“Which puts Washington in the spot of wanting the steady hand Smith can provide but perhaps needing more than mere steadiness.”

You can read more here.

Smith has detractors on Twitter, too. Here is a really small sample of what Washington fans were saying:

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