Ron Rivera values Alex Smith’s ability to distribute ball to young players

Matt Weyrich
·3 min read

Rivera values Smith’s ability to distribute ball to young players originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Ron Rivera may not be starting Washington’s young first-round pick at quarterback, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t working on developing players on the offensive side of the ball.

In fact, Rivera believes that starting veteran Alex Smith over Dwayne Haskins could go a long way toward improving the play of Washington’s young skill players. Smith completed 38 of 55 passes for 390 yards in the team’s Week 10 loss to Detroit Lions, but the number that stood out to Rivera was the target share among Washington’s receivers.

“Playing Alex right now, the thing that you like about it is when you pull the game stats out and you look at pass receiving and targets, he targeted nine different guys in the game,” Rivera told NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay for the Washington Football Talk podcast.

“That tells you that there’s nine guys out there that are young players that are getting the ball thrown at them…When the young players get the ball in their hands, that’s a huge thing because now they’re learning and understanding what it feels like. They’re not guys that are sitting on the bench and not doing anything and all of a sudden, they’re thrust in the middle of it and everybody goes, ‘Well, it was too big for him.’”

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Rivera went on to list Terry McLaurin (seven catches for 95 yards), Isaiah Wright (six catches for 59 yards), Cam Sims (four catches for 54 yards), Steven Sims Jr. (five catches for 46 yards), Antonio Gibson (four catches for 20 yards), Peyton Barber (one catch for seven yards) and Jeff Badet (one target, zero catches) as young players benefitting from Smith’s ability to spread the ball around. All seven of those players are 26 or younger, leaving plenty of room for them to develop moving forward.

However, Smith is still 36 years old and his future in the NFL is uncertain given the traumatic injury he had to overcome just to see the field this season. Haskins is 23 with just 11 career starts to his name. But Rivera stood his ground and reinforced that Washington is taking many factors into consideration when determining who will start at quarterback.

“There’s a reason why and that’s the thing everybody has to understand,” Rivera said. “I have my reasons. I’m not giving anything to anybody. This is gonna be earned. Again, you know it: I went through training camp with a thought in mind. I went through the first four games with a thought in mind. Now, I’ve reset it. I’m not going to say I made a mistake but I’m going to say that I didn’t see what I needed to see.

“I’m trying to be very thoughtful and have reasons for why I do things that I do. As I go forward, I will continue to make the decisions that I think are the best ones for this organization.”