Alex Smith does not have a strong arm. Alex Smith does not throw deep. Alex Smith remains isolated to short, high percentage throws. Alex Smith is a — wait for it — game manager.
There are well known are accepted facts about Alex Smith, especially that last one which has often taken on the form of an insult over the years, for whatever reason. When we call a quarterback a game manager, we’re really saying that while he may not be able to complete the necessary spectacular throws to win his team a game, he’ll rarely ever force a throw and make a crushing mistake to lose one. As a direct illustration last night during the Chiefs’ 26-16 win to move to 3-0, Smith wasn’t Michael Vick. He wasn’t and never will be the sort of quarterback who will have a career high run of 61 yards, but then also turn the ball over three times (elsewhere in remarkable Vick Thursday numbers: he had more rushing yards in the first quarter than several teams have…in total).
No, he’ll just stay steady, and never do anything even remotely dangerous. That’s why he set a career high of his own last night with 10 rushing attempts, averaging 3.3 yards per carry, because something >>>> nothing. And that’s why he didn’t complete a single pass on a ball that traveled more than 15 yards down the field.
Smith knows his weakness, and so does Andy Reid, and so does Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. Throwing a ball any great distance is mainly his flaw, and that’s fine. It’s who he is, and just as he was in San Francisco, Smith is in an offense that caters to his strength on short throws, while minimizing his greatest deficiency.
The difficulty is that, just as we’re seeing with the possibly new look Peyton Manning (a quarterback who’s also throwing an abundance of short passes through crossing routes and screens now, especially following the addition of Wes Welker), the quarterback has to connect on long throws when called upon in key situations. Manning, of course, has that ability, but Smith could be exposed when the Chiefs fall behind. Through three games, they haven’t trailed by a touchdown or more yet.
That’s always been the question with Smith, though it started to fade away a bit at the end of his 49ers tenure. During his rejuvenation season in 2011 he didn’t even attempt that many passes, chucking 443 times throughout the entire season (20th). In his 26 starts under Jim Harbaugh, only 14.8 percent of his passes went for 20 yards or more, many of which were still chunk yardage gained by the receiver after the catch.
Donnie Avery was the willing participant in that game of catch last night, most notably on a 51-yard reception that traveled about eight yards through the air, with the quick-footed receiver taking it the rest of the way on a repeated route, and apparently an unstoppable one. Again and again Avery exposed Philly on third-down crossing routes. He had great blocking downfield on well-designed plays, but at some point the Eagles needed to stop a simple and fundamental concept.
They whiffed, and then whiffed some more while Avery accumulated 151 receiving yards on seven receptions (107 of which came on third down conversion attempts). The Eagles’ embarrassment thickens when we look at recent history, and see that Avery had only 49 yards through two games prior to last night, and last year in Indianapolis over a full season he averaged ojust 48.8 yards per game. But it gets worse, because of course it does. Between Avery this week and Eddie Royal a week ago, the Eagles have given up 231 receiving yards to receivers who have a combined career per game average of 27.2 yards.
For fantasy footballing, that’s your reminder to load up every pistol against the Eagles defense. And for the foreseeable future, here’s another handy mental note: Dwayne Bowe is no more than a WR3, and possibly even a flex. If there was a night to test out Smith’s arm deep at least periodically, it was last night against a secondary dripping with pathetic. And yet a receiver who was given a contract worth $56 million in the offseason was targeted only four times, catching just one of those throws for four yards.
This is an offense that will keep the restrictor plate on Smith, while continuing to run through Jamaal Charles, who finished with 172 total yards last night and a touchdown on 27 touches (20 carries, and seven receptions). And it’s an offense that’s deeply afraid of any risk whatsoever.
That’s not a bad thing. It just…is, and on this particular night Smith was propped up by both Charles and a defense that forced four turnovers while sacking Vick six times (3.5 of which came from Justin Houston, who now has 6.5 QB takedowns over three games). That approach will work as long a good but not nearly 49ers circa 2011 good defense keeps scores close, because moving down the field with any sort of speed isn’t happening.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
Say it ain’t so, LeSean McCoy
I want whatever McCoy was shot up with at halftime.
Just like his counterpart on the Kansas City sideline, the Eagles running back was yet again a fantasy stud last night, running for 158 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (yep, that’s 7.9 YPC). But he did it while leaving the game and sending many TVs off of balconies late in the second quarter.
Then he came back and had rushes for 30 and 41 yards in the second half. So, it’s all good then, right LeSean? RIGHT?
Yes, so please resume all normal bodily functions. McCoy has a right ankle sprain, and the combination of adrenaline and horse tranquilizers kept him on the field in the second half to rush for 92 yards. He’ll need all 10 days to recover prior to the Eagles’ Week 4 game, but he’ll be fine.
Alex Smith enjoys a circular run
Face paint is always a bad idea
The problem with face paint (other than, you know, looking like a complete fool), is having to still wear it after your team craps all over your face. So here’s what happens: you’re JACKED while spending three hours applying the necessary color schemes, and then your face is just a mix of colorful sadness.
Say, Eagles bro, how was your night?
Not sure about you guys, but I learned all my life lessons over a decade ago from the Jerry Show, or whatever.
Dropped passes are still the worst
Exactly a week ago we were observing the doom that is Tom Brady’s receivers with Danny Amendola injured, and Rob Gronkowski on the mend but still not quite back yet. The only reliable option is Julian Edelman, as the inexperience of rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins was glaring in Week 2 with their repeated drops and miscommunications.
About those drops: they left a deep fantasy burn during a week when Brady did well to finish with even 11 points. How deep? Well, about five points deep, which is pretty significant.
Tom Brady has lost 121 yards this season on dropped passes, the most of any QB in the league. #Patriots
— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) September 19, 2013
Last word on the Richardson trade
Since Wednesday night I’ve read and listened to a lot of hot sprots takes regarding the Richardson trade that was initiated by the Browns, and written a few of my own. While I understand the devastation Browns fans are feeling right now, there are fine arguments for both sides.
Even if this is a new management team that didn’t make the Richardson pick, trading away a top three selection that the Browns traded up for and getting a pick at the back half of the opening round in return is a special kind of pain, and doing it only one year into Richardson’s career makes so much worse. However, the central problem with the Browns’ offense is the quarterback, and to address that problem you need to both embrace tanking (hi, Teddy Bridgewater), and move your only remaining asset with value. That was Richardson, and now with multiple picks in the early rounds next spring (two each in the first, third, and fourth) the Browns can address many areas, hopefully doing it right this time.
Clearly Browns general manager Michael Lombardi is rolling with the latter line of thinking, knowing he can replace a running back much more easily, and finding a franchise quarterback is now the sword he’ll die on. But his thinking has changed a wee bit since he was hired in Cleveland…
— Kyle Casey (@kylecasey094) September 19, 2013