- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2018

Vernon Davis and Alex Smith have spent almost as much time apart as they were together. The tight end-quarterback duo spent six years with the San Francisco 49ers, but they’ve been on different teams for the last five seasons.

Over those years, Davis has kept a close eye on Smith — and he’s excited to pair with him, again.

The Redskins began the start of their offseason program Monday, reuniting Davis and Smith for the first time since the quarterback’s trade to the Redskins in January.

“His game has elevated dramatically,” Davis said. “And I say that because of his ability to get in and out of the pocket, he’s getting the ball downfield, he’s just placing the ball where it needs to be and he’s doing it effectively.”

In San Francisco, Davis was Smith’s most reliable target. They had a solid chemistry, and eventually made two playoff runs when Jim Harbaugh was hired in 2011.

It will take time for Smith to build a similar connection with the rest of his new teammates. The voluntary workouts are the first start of that process.

At the team’s facility in Ashburn, players took physicals, did some running and participated in some football-related activity. Smith was officially able to get his hands on a playbook, which could be tweaked to suit his strengths.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden has already been open about his desire to tailor the offense toward Smith. On Monday, Davis said he expects the coaching staff to put Smith in the best position to succeed.

That should include calling plays that will allow Smith to extend outside the pocket.

“That’s going to be tremendous for us and it’s imperative that we have that because, you know, this game is all about how effective you can be,” Davis said. “If you can sustain plays then that’s good, that’s great, because that allows the receivers to get open when everyone else thinks the play is dead and we can still keep going.”

The Redskins are counting on both players for 2018.

Davis will be the team’s secondary tight end behind oft-injured Jordan Reed. In the offseason, Davis will see the majority of snaps with Reed recovering from a toe injury and not expected to be ready until training camp.

Smith, of course, will look to provide stability to the team’s most important position. He signed a four-year, $94 million ($71 million guaranteed) extension to go along with the trade.

Davis watched as Smith progressed in San Francisco. Smith, the first overall pick in 2005, had a turbulent start to his NFL career, with seven different offensive coordinators and three head coaches with the 49ers.

But Smith excelled under Harbaugh. And Smith continued to perform under Andy Reid in Kansas City. Last season, the 33-year-old had a career year, throwing for 4,042 yards.

In March, Smith said he was excited to play with Davis again, adding the tight end was one of the first people to reach out to him.

“It was like icing on the cake,” Smith said. “Certainly I’ve known Vernon a long time, both young guys in this league together and spent a lot of years together. … He’s such a unique guy, such a great teammate and friend so I’m looking forward to being around with him again.”

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