When the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, one of the reasons that general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid were so enamored of him was his vast knowledge of the game.
Turns out Smith may be too smart for his own good.
After struggling through two preseason games, Smith said Monday that part of the issue is that he has too good of a grasp of the Kansas City offense. So rather than react to what defenses are giving him, Smith is trying to outwit them, leading to incompletions and interceptions.
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"Watching the film with coach, I'm trying to do too much," he said. "You know where everyone is at. You know the details. I need to go back to the fundamentals. I'm doing too much with my eyes and things like that."
By that, Smith means trying to lure defenders into a certain spot on the field based on where he is looking, which would allow his wide receivers to run free.
That certainly didn't work in the first half Friday night against Seattle, when he threw a pass right at Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks linebacker barely had to move to catch the pass -- it was so off-target that it was hard to tell exactly who the intended receiver was -- and Wagner was able to run untouched 25 yards for a touchdown that gave Seattle the lead.
"Trying to hold guys, move guys, doing too much of that," Smith said. "I really felt looking at the film, I need to get back to moving the ball, executing the offense."
It's easy to forgive Smith for trying to stretch his knowledge of the offense. This is the first time in his 11-year professional career he's had the same offensive coordinator -- Doug Pederson -- three straight seasons. In all, Smith has gone through seven coordinators, including a stretch of five in his first five seasons in the league.
In other words, this is the first time that Smith has ever gone through training camp and preseason games where he feels completely confident in the system.
"Yeah, I'm doing too much with things like my eyes and things like that," he said, "but I'm very comfortable, without a doubt. We've got a lot of the same pieces in place, I've been with the same coaches for three years, so it's a good thing."
Yet the results haven't been very good. Smith was 6 of 10 for 42 yards with an interception against Arizona, and 11 of 18 for 81 yards with a touchdown and pick-six against the Seahawks.
Perhaps drawing more scrutiny to Smith's uneven performances has been the fact backup Chase Daniel has been dynamic, throwing four TD passes without an interception -- albeit, leading the Chiefs' second-team offense against the opposing team's backup defense.
Reid remains unconcerned about his starting quarterback, who was given a four-year, $68 million contract extension prior to last season. But he also expects Smith to clean up things.
"He's trying to put things in small windows and make plays, (and) we're asking him to do some different things, and he'll get all that taken care of," Reid said. "That's not his M.O., so I'm not too worried about it."
Indeed, Smith's modus operandi is to protect the football. He only threw six picks all of last season, a big reason the Chiefs are willing to put up with his relatively weak arm and penchant for tucking and running the moment the pocket begins to collapse.
Smith's rough preseason hardly falls entirely on his shoulders, either.
Competition and injuries have left his offensive line in flux, with left tackle Eric Fisher (ankle) and right guard Jeff Allen (knee) missing the Seattle game. And Smith has had to grow accustomed to new wide receivers: Jeremy Maclin is here, Dwayne Bowe is gone.
Maclin is confident the offense will be humming by Week 1 against Houston, and that the guy under center will be the biggest reason for that happening.
"I think we're right where we need to be," Maclin said. "The chemistry is good. I think he trusts me, I trust him. He'll put the ball in a place for me to make plays and I think that's how it's supposed to be."
NOTES: Reid said Pro Bowl NT Dontari Poe (back surgery) is ahead of schedule, though he refused to say whether Poe will be ready for the regular season. "He's doing great. He's really made big strides," Reid said. "He says he's going to play the first game. I say, `OK, we'll see,' then the doctors have to evaluate it. We'll see."