“Dude works hard. Great teammate. I really think he can be a really big piece of us,” Edelman said after the team’s walkthrough practice in preparation for Sunday night’s home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s exciting to be around him. He loves football, you can tell. He knows his stuff. It’s getting more and more fun the more he knows.”
Gordon caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in last week’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, but he has only played on a part-time basis over two games (18 snaps apiece), in part because he’s still limited by a hamstring injury.
Brady previously said his touchdown throw to Gordon, a deep ball into double coverage in the end zone, was reflective of the trust he has built with Gordon in a short period of time. The Patriots acquired Gordon — who has four catches for 82 yards — from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17 for a fifth-round draft choice.
The inclusion of Gordon in the attack, along with Edelman’s return last week from a four-game NFL suspension to open the season, has added a spark to the Patriots’ passing game. Edelman had seven catches for 57 yards in his return against the Colts.
“It’s getting better each day,” Edelman said of his transition back to football, adding that returning to practice has allowed him to build his confidence in competitive situations. “I feel like my conditioning is pretty good. You’re always working to get it better.”
Of Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs, he said, “We’re playing an undefeated team that looks unbelievable. We’ve got a battle. If you love football, this is why you play — games like this. Two tough teams. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Having missed all of the 2017 season with a torn ACL, and then sitting out due to suspension, Edelman’s appreciation for the game has grown that much greater.
“You definitely appreciate it once you’ve been away, and I was away for a year and some change,” he said. “It’s good to be out with the fellas. Meetings can get on you a little bit here and there, but you realize you need it. It’s good to be back.”
ASHBURN, Virginia — The indoctrination period included unscripted moments that tested Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith’s grasp on yet another new offense. It didn’t faze Smith; it certainly pleased his coach.
And it’s a lot of what the Redskins needed to see from Smith this spring. Now that he’s with his third team — and played with seven offensive coordinators and three head coaches during his first eight seasons — adapting isn’t new.
“He’s the smartest person I’ve been around, without a doubt,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
Which means expectations will be high.
“He has to get it down by the first game,” Gruden said. “He’s already close to having it down … This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”
The Redskins feel good about what they accomplished in the offseason — if teams don’t feel good this time of year, something’s wrong. They wanted to improve their run defense and drafted lineman Daron Payne. They wanted to get better running the ball so they drafted Derrius Guice. Health will remain a big question mark entering training camp next month.
But their good feelings started when they traded for Smith with Kansas City. Though Kirk Cousins threw for more than 4,000 yards three straight seasons, the inability to strike a long-term deal became an issue for both sides. Smith now has five years left on his contract.
Now he must produce. But the first steps occurred this spring.
“The biggest thing is just the volume of reps I’ve gotten,” Smith said. “I loved how Jay packed every practice; the [starters] got a ton of reps. That’s the best part. There’s only so much you can do in a classroom setting. I feel I’ve gotten to know my teammates very well. That’s also crucial this time of year, spending time with each other.”
To expedite that learning curve, Smith will sit next to a different teammate during team meetings, wanting to get to know the defensive players, too. On the field, Gruden will test his knowledge by using unscripted two-minute and red zone situations.
“I love that part of it is unscripted with Jay,” Smith said, “and I have to handle it as it comes at me. Two minutes, third-down situations, where he’s just firing them at me and I have to know it. It may be something I haven’t repped before or only seen on paper, but it’s comfortable handling it out there. That’s part of being comfortable as you learn a new system … That speeds up the learning curve.”
Especially in the red zone.
“A lot of times you get to camp and you’re like, ‘I haven’t spent a lot of time in the red zone,’” Smith said. “I feel we’ve had a ton of red zone work. The timing has to be better, the anticipation has to be better — spacing is at a premium. All those things have been great work for me.”
Gruden said, “I kind of go crazy with different formations and stuff like that. I just have got to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself, but it’s never an issue. I spit out the plays and he does a great job repeating them and executing them, so he’s somebody that can handle a lot of things.”
There will be plenty more to learn in camp. Smith hasn’t yet worked with tight end Jordan Reed (toe surgery) or running back Chris Thompson (leg). Smith also never has thrown a pass during a game to anyone on the roster aside from former San Francisco teammate tight end Vernon Davis.
But those who have worked with him like that Smith, 34, has been through a lot.
“You can tell he’s a guy that’s been around a lot and has seen different coverages,” Redskins receiver Jamison Crowder said. “He gives receivers a chance to make plays on the ball. He makes throws that sometimes you would think the throw isn’t there and he still puts it in there and gives guys a chance to let their skill set show. He’s seen it all.”
Indeed, Smith was adept at giving the outside receivers such as Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson chances in practice. Oftentimes he’d put the ball where only the wideouts had a chance, reducing the risk. He nearly threw a pick Wednesday but linebacker Mason Foster dropped a pass to Docston in heavy coverage. During the practices open to the media, Smith rarely — if ever — was intercepted or close to turning it over.
“We have to get to know each other more than the X’s and O’s,” Smith said, “and then the little intricacies … Those guys have to find out what I can do and I have to find out what they can do. Building that chemistry.”
This will be a big season for the organization as Gruden enters the fifth year of his contract — the last two of which ended without a playoff appearance. After losing a three-year starter, the Redskins have a new quarterback but one who can handle the transition.
“That’s why we wanted to get a veteran quarterback here that can adjust to different schemes and alert on the fly,” Gruden said. “We are not in here to build the team around him; the team is built and he has to lead it like right now.”