Alex Smith: Finally coming around for Chiefs
By Ryan Tracy
This is the Alex Smith you have been waiting for.
It may have been sneaking up on you for a bit, but its here now. This #11 is the guy that Chiefs John Dorsey and Andy Reid wanted the they spent two 2nd-round picks on him.
There is magic in the bye week beyond the sterling record Andy Reid has amassed after the yearly week of rest. The offensive adjustments Reid has made since the week 5 bye have paid off, to one degree of another, in every aspect surrounding quarterback play.
Just as Reid did in 2015, the course-correction he has laid in has this team heading in the right direction. The question will be can he stay that course and allow his quarterback to reach his full potential.
That trend has a chance to continue in Indianapolis. Despite a depressing outcome for the team, the last trip to Indy proved very successful for Alex Smith. Our pal Matt Danely from Locked on Colts is on our podcast to give to preview this week’s matchup with the Colts. Here’s the show:
This is Alex Smith nearing his peak. His athleticism is can still sustain a play or drive. He functions best, as most quarterbacks do, when he has time to see the field as a play develops. The play-action passing game has been essential to his elevating his play. It has allowed Smith more time and more opportunities to throw the ball deeper than we have seen before. He has gotten his receiving weapons more involved, spreading the ball around the offense. If Reid can sustain the game planning that enables Smith, the quarterback’s improvement could meet his potential.
Smith’s success is a simple equation. To carry his latest success on to the rest of the schedule, it has to remain stable.
The Cause: Playcalling
Since the bye week, Reid has actually begun to do what he has long said he should do.
Reid has flipped his script severely and for the better. Since the bye week, Reid has upped the running offense from 19 rushes per game (weeks 1-4) to over 32 rushes per game. The passing game has been curtailed to 25 pass attempts per game.
In a modern West coast offense, many consider 55-60 percent pass to represent “balance.” Reid has gone beyond that point and has cranked up the running game to 56 percent of his play call since the bye week.
The moves plays to the teams strengths. The offensive line is better run blocking than pass blocking. The running back rotation is now among the elite of the NFL. The play-action game lures the defense toward the line of scrimmage, opening the air attack behind it.
The Effect: Uber efficient Smith
As Alex Smith is asked to pass less, he has proven to be a better passer. With increased time to throw and time for his targets to get open, Smith have become more efficient.
He set a Chiefs franchise record with his 86.4% completion percentage against the Raiders. On that day, in a contested game, Reid asked Smith to throw only 22 times. Smith responded with a second franchise record of 15 straight completions, tying Len Dawson himself.
Smith has pulled his pre-bye average of a respectable 65.2 percent completion rate all the way up to 78.6 percent following the bye week. If sustained, that would beat the season leader in that metric Tom Brady.
Smith has been throwing less, but has been making the most of it. His yards per completion has risen substantially following the bye. He was gaining 9.76 yards per completion in weeks one through four. Since then, he has upped that yardage to 12.19 yards per completion. That is a healthy 24 percent increase.
The Long Run
This is the Smith that Andy Reid envisioned. This is a glimpse of how powerful his offense could be. If Reid can be consistent in his play calling and Smith can continue to be stingy with turnovers, the duo has the potential to see the best performances of their respective careers in 2016.