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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The beauty of Alex Smith, and what the Washington Redskins hoped to have in their new quarterback, was evident Sunday. He avoided bad plays and made good ones with his smarts, his legs, as well as with his arm.

Smith was far from the only reason Washington beat Arizona 24-6 on Sunday. But he orchestrated the offense in a performance the Redskins would like to see duplicated. Of course, it helps when a team can run the ball the way Washington did Sunday, finishing with 182 yards. Then again, part of the reason Washington ran well was because of Smith’s ability to handle a heavy dose of run-pass option plays. It’s what they hoped for when making the trade for him, moving on from Kirk Cousins.

Short, Steady Wins Race
In his first start with the Redskins, Alex Smith averaged 3.2 air yards per attempt, his lowest in a game since Week 8 of 2015 (3.0 vs. Lions). The Redskins capitalized on Smith’s short passes, gaining 179 yards after the catch, including 71 by Adrian Peterson, his most in a game since 2011 (75 at Panthers).

Smith was 13-of-16 for 190 yards and 2 TD targeting running backs and tight ends, the fifth-most such yards in his career.

For a first game with a new quarterback, the Redskins were able to dig deep into their playbook. Why? Because they overloaded Smith at the start of camp with a heavier-than-normal installation of their offense and he showed he could handle it all. The key now will be to continue building on what they showed Sunday. The Week 1 output is even more impressive considering Washington’s offense had several key players either limited or out for much of camp because of lingering injuries and an abundance of caution.

On Sunday, Smith completed 21-of-30 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball eight times for 14 more yards and used his legs several other times to avoid danger, either throwing the ball away or running.

“I thought he was sensational,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Smith made strong decisions, which is one reason why they turned the ball over only one time — on a late fumble by Adrian Peterson. In Gruden’s first four openers, the Redskins had lost the turnover battle each time, thanks to 10 combined giveaways. Gruden mentioned the turnover stat leading into the game whenever he was asked about being 0-4 in openers.
Alex Smith executed the run-pass option plays effectively and the Redskins won in Week 1 for the first time in five years. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Smith also avoided a safety when, with Robert Nkemdiche bursting clean through the middle, he flipped an underhand pass to receiver Josh Doctson. It was a pass that had no chance of being complete, but it saved the Redskins two points.

“That’s what he’s done his whole career,” Gruden said. “He does a great job not making a bad play worse and living to fight another day and moving on to the next play. That’s what he’s always done.”

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The Redskins used a variety of packages on offense, including seven different formations on the first drive alone. The run-pass options rely on Smith reading a defender on the go and then quickly deciding his next move.

The first RPO resulted in a 13-yard Chris Thompson run. Another time, on a third-and-12 in the fourth quarter, Smith saw that the Cardinals were going to blitz a defensive back from the slot. So Smith changed the play, giving slot receiver Jamison Crowder a shot down the seam. He caught a pass that gained 18 yards.
“He’s a great game manager and he gets us in the right calls,” Redskins tackle Morgan Moses said of Smith. “He doesn’t make mistakes and he doesn’t get flustered. He knows he’ll get hit sometimes and he bounces back up and keeps the ball moving.”

But again, it was more than that. His accuracy has been on display throughout his career as well as this summer. It was there again Sunday, notably on a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed, who stretched out for the pass against man coverage before lunging into the end zone.

There was also a 22-yard completion that resulted from Smith spinning out of the pocket, rolling to his left and throwing to Reed.

“He’s fun to watch in that regard,” Gruden said. “You always feel he’s going to make the right decision most of the time.”

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Finally, football is officially back. If you are a diehard fan of the sport, you’ll likely take in every snap you can of the exhibition games, up until the last snap of the Super Bowl in February. It doesn’t matter to you, football is football. If you’re not really into the pre-season, you’re likely watching the team you like or are an actual fan of. The fans of the Washington Redskins have been itching for the team to step back on the field for well over 5 months now, and that time has come.

Here’s what you should be looking for against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.

The Redskins key players likely will not get much playing time this week. At most, you get two drives out of the first string players, traditionally only one drive and done. With that being said, you still want to see fluidity from the offense.

How confident does Cousins look in general, with a revamped receiving corps?
How does the chemistry of Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Kirk Cousins look?
Can the offense move the ball effectively in their short time on the field?
How does Rob Kelley look in his first look of 2017 as the Redskins starting running back?
On defense you’d to see players playing fast and physical. The defense showed flaws very early in preseason a year ago, with the front 7 as a whole was getting gashed on occasions that made some conclude they were in for a long season defensively. Especially without a nose tackle. So defensively you want to see how the pre-season starters look.

How does the free agent addition of Stacy McGee affect the run game in his few reps come Thursday?
After missing the past 2 seasons, does Phil Taylor look like a possible solution at nose tackle for the Redskins?
When it comes to Su’a Cravens although he played safety in college, he is new to the position in the pros. So how comfortable does he look in live game situations? Cravens’ instincts have been on display in camp, but will it look different in any way come game day.
The reserves in the first, second, and fourth game is what is most important to pay attention to. Last year’s preseason is the reason UDFA Robert Kelley made the 53 man roster, and why Matt Ioannidis, the 2016 5th round draft pick, was demoted to the practice squad. So this is your time as a viewer, to make your predictions on who will be a key contributor to the Redskins during the regular season.

How do the ‘Bama rookies look in their first pro game? Jonathan Allen has improved each day of camp, while Ryan Anderson has shown the ability to win with leverage and strength at times.
Junior Galette has been a standout at camp, for the third straight year. The injuries the past two seasons has not been a concern to him, the explosion has been on display, and he’s a full go to this point. How many reps does he get, and how does he look going up against tackles that are not near the level of Trent Williams?
Free agent addition Zach Brown will get his first look as a Redskin, how does Brown look in coverage during his reps, and will his speed standout on this defense?
Can Samaje Perine prove to be the real deal? How does his strength standout against professional NFL athletes?
Offensively, there’s a position battle taking place at tight end and wide receiver. Where does Robert Davis, Zach Pascal, Brian Quick, and Matt Hazel stand after their first game as a Redskin?
Who inches closer to earning the third tight end spot? Niles Paul, Derek Carrier, or rookie tight end Jeremy Sprinkle? Sprinkle has had a solid camp to date, he may surprise some people this pre-season.
Plenty of questions, what are your answers? Vote to share your thoughts on the player you’re most looking forward to watching this week against Baltimore, and share your thoughts in the comments below.