Alex Smith has been awful
The same man that was starting off the season being in the talks for NFL MVP has played awful for about a month and a half now. Ever since the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Alex Smith has not been able to get much going. He had the one nice showing against the Raiders but after that, it been a steep downhill from there.
Once again, we thought that the bye week would help resolve the issues that Smith has had but we were clearly wrong. I’m talking about miles away wrong. Smith has continued to get worse with every week, even as the competition continues to get worse.
If you follow me on Twitter you have probably seen me argue with numerous people about how poor Smith has played. Usually, these people are the ones making any excuse they can because Alex can do no wrong in their eyes. I hate to tell you, he’s doing a lot of things terribly wrong and it’s been for more than just a couple games now. This is over the last month-and-a-half.
First, we will start off with the most common excuse for Smith. “The offensive line has been terrible and Alex has been under way too much pressure to be able to have any success”. Oh, the number of wrong points in this argument.
Believe it or not, if you actually go back and watch the film instead of just relying on your eyes in the broadcast, Smith has actually made this offensive line much worse than it is. Smith continues to drop way too far back, even when in shotgun dropping five steps, making it impossible for his tackles to do their job.
The job for the tackles is to push the edge rushers around the back of the quarterback. That’s pretty hard to do when your quarterback is so far back that pushing the edge rusher behind is really pushing him straight into your quarterback. On top of that, when Smith gets pressures from those edge rushers, he runs up into the pocket straight into the interior defensive linemen. Instead of taking a calm step forward, he takes about three or four.
How can you seriously expect your offensive line to protect you when you’re not even where you are supposed to be in the first place? Yes, I know that we don’t have an elite offensive line but what Smith is forcing them to try and do is asking way too much.
Another flawed part of this argument is when you go back and look at the games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, Smith was under a lot of pressure those games with injuries on the line and the defenses having really good pass rushers. Yet he found a way to maneuver in the pocket and even outside of it with his eyes staying downfield so he could attempt to make a play.
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The keeping eyes up are out the window. The second that Smith feels a small ounce of what could be pressure, he is abandoning the play and tucking the ball to run. The amount of plays he has had happy feet over the past month is downright disgusting. The offensive line hasn’t changed since the beginning of the season other than getting injured players back. Smith is the one who has changed.
The next argument would be, “Alex Smith can’t succeed with the plays that are being called by Andy Reid.” Considering the fact that Smith has been struggling more and more every week, we continue to see Reid dumb down the playbook more and more to help get Smith back on track. This is a lot of the reason you are seeing so many screen plays and one read plays lately.
Smith has not been able to make multiple reads on a consistent basis since the Steelers game. Whatever it is about the Cover 2 defense that he cannot figure out, it’s forcing him to play in a way that will not win games. The way to beat the cover two is to throw intermediate and deep routes and throw into tight windows. You also have to make reads post-snap.
All three of those things are things that Smith has always struggled with. We saw some of that be better in the first half of the season but that was before Smith had completely lost his confidence. Teams are playing most of their players up close to the line of scrimmage and forcing Smith to beat them deep. It’s working for them.
Say what you want about the playcalling, but how many times have we seen designed plays to beat these zone schemes and Smith doesn’t go past his first read? Like the one where he threw it to a covered wide receiver Albert Wilson instead of to his star tight end Travis Kelce that came open over the top. What could have been six points quickly turned into an incompletion on third down.
Smith has missed receivers coming open at an alarming rate over the last month and that has nothing to do with Andy Reid.