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Interview: Washington Football OC Scott Turner

Every week All-Pro Reels will bring you day by day coverage of the Washington Football Team through the eyes, ears and lenses of our content creators.

ASHBURN, VA -- November 11, 2020

On QB Alex Smith throwing more against the Giants:

“I think Alex is very comfortable. I didn’t even know that stat right now until you told me that. We hit a couple plays down the field once he got in there, really starting with his third drive. When you hit chunk plays, those yards seem to add up. In the second half, we mixed a couple runs early, but really we were throwing the ball. Alex was doing a great job finding some completions and guys were getting some yards after catch. Like I said, we hit the 45-yarder to [WR] Cam [Sims]. He had a couple more that were over 30 apiece, and then obviously the big one to [WR] Terry [McLaurin]. Those add up. It was good. It got us back in the game. Obviously we weren’t able to finish the deal, but I think Alex does have a good comfort level in the offense.”

On Smith throwing down the field:

“The first game, the conditions were bad. A lot of it was there were a couple things—the first game that he played, they were doing a nice job of getting to the quarterback. The ball was heavy and hard to grip, so it was really hard to get it down the field. He was just looking for the quicker option and getting it out of his hands. They did a good job of rallying and tackling. That was just a bad deal all the way around. This next game, I think having played already post-injury, the better conditions, he was able to get through his progressions, look down the field and obviously make those plays.”

On the challenges of establishing the run:

“Obviously, you look at the game sheet and you kind of evaluate and you see nine rushes. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be more balanced. Every game comes up different. All those things that you said right there, that’s what led to that. If you look at the game plan, we turned the ball over in the first play of the game on what would’ve been an explosive play. We had a three-and-out where we had a couple plays that we could’ve made or things didn’t go our way. We muffed a punt after that. So when we got the ball, we were down 10-nothing. At that point, it was still early. It was still the first quarter, and we still mixed some. We made a couple plays throwing the ball. Then, I think quickly after that we had 19 plays before that two-minute drill before the half. We turned the ball over again after that, after moving the ball down the field and showing some promise. Then, we were down 17 at half. We actually had a couple runs on that six-play drive, the touchdown drive, where we hit the big play to Cam. We were having success throwing the ball, too, like we talked about with Alex and pushing the ball down the field and finding completions. We just had a good rhythm, so we stuck with it. There were actually some plays where there were some run-pass options where the ball got thrown. We could’ve had a couple other carries there, but we were able to get success throwing the ball. We’re just going to go with what works. You’ve got to be able to adapt. If you want to be a good offense in this league, which is what we’re working to become, you’ve got to be able to do both. When you need to run the ball, we’ve got to be able to run it like we did against Dallas when we had the lead. Then, when you’ve got to battle back and stay alive and give yourself a chance to throw it, you’ve got to be able to throw it. Really, ideally, you’d like to be balanced.”

On QB Steven Montez:

“Steven doesn’t get a ton of reps. He’ll get a few scout team reps sprinkled in here or there. He got more reps today with the scout team than he ever has now that he’s the third guy. But, as being the fourth guy this whole season, his work is done in individual as well as in the classroom. Our quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese as well as [offensive quality control coach] Luke Del Rio who is in the room and helps out, those guys have done a great job spending a little extra time with him. Luke in particular, just teaching him the offense and bringing him along and developing him as a young player. He’s a physical guy. He’s a guy that, the guys that are in that position, the young players, the practice squad guys, those are the guys that really missed out the most losing the offseason, losing a traditional training camp. The young quarterback misses out the most as far as losing preseason games because it’s hard to tell what you’ve got until the bullets are live at that position. He’s just a guy that we’ll continue to work with. He’s really followed along with the older guys and learning by example.”

On how the offensive approach changed from Smith to QB Kyle Allen against the Giants:

“To a certain extent. They’re pretty similar. There’s not a huge difference. Both guys are cerebral guys. They’re going to read the defense; they’re going to get the ball where it needs to be. The game plan that we had prepared all week, that was the game plan for them that obviously was geared a little bit more toward Kyle. But, Alex is more than capable of doing all that stuff. Alex, credit to him, a guy that—as a number two, you’re not getting a lot of reps through the week. You’re getting a couple here and there, but it was Kyle. I called it as if he was ready to play because I know Alex is a pro and he was prepared even without the reps. For the most part, he executed. Obviously, there were some plays that he would like back, but he gave us a chance to win that game.”

On WR Cam Sims:

“Cam has been great. The thing about that is, there’s a personal side to this business. When you’ve got a guy like Cam—I saw a quote Terry had about him that he just doesn’t say much, he just comes in and gets his work done every day. Obviously, I’m sure he was disappointed at the beginning of the year when he didn’t make the team and was on the practice squad. He worked at it. He took advantage of the opportunities he had on special teams, and that got him a spot on the 53. We had some guys get banged up, and he stepped in. He had opportunities and made the most of those opportunities and got him more. Now, he’s making the most with the opportunities that he has had. He had the one big catch against Dallas, and then the three really huge plays, especially the one at the beginning of the second half that really gave us some juice to get us going. I think that guys see that. I think Cam feels that and gives him confidence and gives the other players confidence. It gives us confidence. He’s going to get more opportunities, and we’re going to see what he can do. We’ll see. We’ll just continue to evaluate him like we do the rest of the team. I’m excited for Cam. I’m excited for him, too. It’s a great deal. He’s a great guy. He’s worked for it. Obviously, we didn’t have the team success, but for him to have that individual success was good and I’m happy for him.”

On RB Antonio Gibson’s role on third down:

“When you’re a young player, especially with a guy like Antonio—and we’ve kind of talked about this through the course of the year—you’ve got to balance the physical with the mental. Physically, he can do everything. We know that. Then, it’s just mentally. How much do we give him before it just overloads? Yesterday, this past Sunday, and it’s something that I’ve said to him and he knows it, it was a tough game for him on Sunday. Obviously, starting off the game with a fumble is not what you want. Then he had a couple other plays that he needs to be better on. Antonio is our guy. We’re going to continue to give him the ball. We believe in him. I told him that he reminds me a lot of a guy that we had in Carolina, D.J. Moore. Obviously, they play different positions, but just a young player who had some ball security issues. Not that Antonio does, he just had the one issue. But it doesn’t get you until it gets you. He’s got to fight through those things. What we don’t want to do is get him to where he’s overwhelmed and not playing fast. The big third down we had in the third quarter, he was in on the play that we threw to Cam. We have had him in on some. [RB] J.D. [McKissic] has done a really nice job in that role, both running the ball and catching it in our pass protection stuff. That’s just what we’re doing. That’s something that, Antonio, his role is going to continue to grow through the year and as his career continues to go along.”

On the first time he realized Smith could return to play:

“I wasn’t sure. Really, I’ve always kind of left that up to the doctors and the trainers. They made that decision as far as when he was able to practice. When we took him off the PUP and when he started practicing and you watched him, yeah, you could tell he was a little rusty. But you could say: ‘Yeah, he could do this.’ The way his movement skills, throwing the football, all those types of things—again, it took a little time and he had to knock a little bit of that rust off. It was evident pretty soon that he was going to get back into this and be a guy that can compete and play. I think that the way we handled it with working him back into it was good. There were kind of steps along the process. Getting onto the field for the first time against the Rams, obviously no one was happy with the way that went. Getting back out there this past week, he did a lot of really good things. Like I said, we didn’t get the job done, but that’s not firmly on him. Like I said, there were some plays that he’d like to have back. Then this next step of him going and preparing all week, getting all the reps in practice and being able to start and give us a chance to go win a football game. He’s built his way up to this point.”

On displaying the entire offense with injuries:

“I don’t know. There’s no excuses in this league. The guys that we have available, you’ve got to get them ready to go play. That stuff, maybe you’ll look back later in the year. Right now, when you’re in it, that’s my job. My job is to get our offense ready and give us a chance to win. I’ve got to keep working at it. I’ve got to do better, obviously. We’ve got to find ways to win these close games that we’ve had a chance to win. Whoever we have available, that’s who we’ve got to get ready to go play. We’ve got to use the quarterbacks that we have, play to their strengths, and go and not worry about that other stuff. I get what you’re saying, but there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s part of this business. It’s a physical game. You’re going to have guys in and out of the lineup at all positions. Obviously, it’s hard when it’s the quarterback, but that’s part of it. That’s part of the job, and we’ve got to keep working at it.”

On determining if a franchise quarterback is on the roster:

“We’re going to evaluate everyone. Obviously, the quarterback is the most important position on the offense, so we’re really going to look at that. As has been stated, Alex is the third quarterback we’ve played this year. We evaluate our guys in everything that we do—in practice, in the meeting room, everything. We’ll continue that. That’s an everyday deal for us. There’s a lot. Physical traits are one part of it, but they come in all shapes and sizes. When you guys watch games on Thursday nights or on Sundays or Monday nights, it gets done in different ways. Some guys stand in the pocket and deliver the football. Accuracy, ball placement—you’ve got to be accurate and you’ve got to make good decisions. Other guys will stand in there, maybe have a little stronger arm. Some guys don’t have the strongest arm, but they anticipate well or they’re really mobile and can make more plays with their feet like [Cardinals QB] Kyler [Murray] or [Bills QB] Josh Allen and stuff like that. They kind of make it happen. You could talk about this forever. Mentally, they’re always guys that are accountable. They’re accountable to themselves, their teammates and their coaches. They’re the hardest working guys in the building. Like I said, they hold other people accountable as well as themselves. They have that ‘it-factor.’ The guys that I’ve been around, that’s really what you see from the position.”

On what would make a franchise quarterback for Washington:

“It’s hard to answer because it’s not like you get to build it. You’ve got to kind of evaluate what’s available and then pick from there. Like I said, we’ve been flexible in this offense. We’ve had guys like Cam Newton. Early in 2018, before he got hurt, he had a lot of success. This offense—not me, but when my dad was running it in San Diego—Philip Rivers, they went to the AFC Championship game and were the number one offense in the league with a guy like Philip. I don’t think you’d look at Philip Rivers or Cam Newton and think any of those guys have a lot of physical traits that are the same, but they both have it. They both have what you’re looking for as far as the mental, the approach, the competitiveness that you need from that position. You really have to look at all of the available options and then go from there.”

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