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Alex Smith’s all-22 vs. Chargers: Not bad, not great

Another week, another series of Alex Smith snaps to review on all-22.

One thing that gets more difficult as the year goes along is the introduction to these articles. I mean, what is there to say after you’ve done 7-8 of these that you guys haven’t heard before? As a writer whose weak spot is generally introductions anyways, it’s a real problem for me.

I guess I’ll just say this: I looked at Alex’s snaps on all-22 again, just like every week, and he wasn’t as good as he was the first two weeks. Click here for the Patriots game and a definition of the terms I use in these breakdowns, click here for the Eagles game. I feel like that ought to do it, no?

Now, let me be a little more clear ... I don’t think Alex was necessarily BAD against the Chargers. He had what I’d call a pretty meh game. Not terrible, but not good either. He didn’t really hurt the team too much, but he didn’t do much to help the passing game on a day it was struggling (outside of one early throw) either. Just... meh.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at the numbers, then we can get into all the meh-ness of it all.

(Note: there is one more depth of target throw tracked than accurate/inaccurate throws. That’s because on one play, Smith was clearly targeting a certain receiver but the ball got batted down, making it impossible to gauge accuracy of the throw despite being able to tell who it was going to)

If you compare these numbers to his first two games, a couple of differences jump out pretty quickly.

First, Alex had way fewer multiple-read plays than he did against the Pats, and fewer than he did against the Eagles as well. There were a lot of clearly defined throws/reads against the Chargers, and a lot of 3-step drops.

The gameplan seemed to be very cognizant of how good the Chargers’ edge rushers are, and in some ways resembled the previous week’s gameplan against a good Eagles defense, the vast majority of the targets being within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Another thing that changed is Alex had a bit higher percentage of his throws go inaccurate on him, a couple that were pretty important too (like leading Tyreek Hill out of bounds on one of the few deep shots taken. It’ll happen, but it hurt).

On a final note, against the Patriots Alex had seven combined plays made/franchise QB throws. Against the Eagles Alex had five. Against the Chargers? Two. And that sums up Alex’s day against the Chargers pretty well. He just didn’t do a whole lot out there after the first couple of drives.

Of course, we have to start off with a hat tip for a good read and nice deep throw to start things off...

In addition to making that throw (which was a very good one down the field taking advantage of a horrible mismatch), Alex was highly efficient in running the offense on the first two drives of the day. All accurate throws, quick reads, scanned the field a few times ... it was all very good.

Thereafter, it was a bit more uneven. The passing game just didn’t flow like it did against the Patriots and the Eagles. Instead, it felt like every single yard was tough to come by. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Alex took five sacks on the day. The pressure seemed to take a toll on Alex, because while some of the sacks were absolutely on the offensive line (hence the three flushes), some of them were not.

There were a couple plays where Alex was a little too eager to pull the ball down in the face of pressure rather than pull the trigger. For a quarterback, if you’ve got a clean look at the field at the top of your drop and you’re looking in the direction of a receiver, I hold you accountable to pull the trigger. Alex was a bit more gunshy against the Chargers than he was against the Eagles’ ferocious rush.

(Note: I guarantee half of you are going to say I’m being too hard on Smith for that play. The other half of you are going to tell me that I’m too kind to Alex about this game. Big fun!)

Now let me be clear, Alex had good moments even after the first few drives, by and large throwing the ball with accuracy and identifying mismatches with ease. And it doesn’t help that on some of his good plays, other factors negated what he did.

While it’s not from the opposite hash, a 10-plus yard out is a tough throw to make, especially with help underneath and over the top, and Alex stuck it. Sadly, a hold by Bryan Witzmann negated the play, and it went from being 1st and 10 in Charger territory to 2nd and 19 on the Chiefs’ 31 yard line. After a 10-yard run by Hunt, Alex was sacked on 3rd and 9 on a play he didn’t have much of a chance.

That was on the Chiefs’ third drive of the game, and after that the offense (besides current MVP frontrunner Kareem Hunt) just wasn’t able to generate much. While they moved the ball a bit here and there, they just never seemed to be able to get it going.

Again, Alex wasn’t necessarily the big problem for the offense, but he wasn’t necessarily a part of the solution either. Additionally, all three of his inaccurate throws came in the second half, which is unfortunate at time when the offense is struggling to move.

Overall, there’s not much to say about this game outside of the fact that it was a game Alex wasn’t asked to do outside of maybe 7-8 snaps, and he had middling results on those snaps. The good news is that Alex hit another deep shot (I can remember stretches in previous years where we went multiple games in a row without seeing completed 20-plus yarders, and we’ve seen one every week this year. That’s something) to Hill, which will once again force defenses to think about what they’re doing out there.

This game looked a lot more like some of Alex’s games in 2016 by my eye. Not one of his bad games mind you, just a little more meh. A little worse in the pocket, hesitating a bit more on throws, not making as many read the field plays. I’d blame it all on the pass rush, but Alex played significantly better against a very good pass rush the week prior, so I’m not sure that’s it.

I’ll be at Arrowhead Monday night, and my hope is that what we saw Sunday was the new floor for Alex. It’d make for a considerably higher floor than we’d seen previously. So far this year Alex has been more than just OK, but for one week at least he was hovering there, or a notch below.

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