49ers Mailbag: Smith makes it too easy for defenses

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49ers Mailbag: Smith makes it too easy for defenses

Yes, the 49ers won a hard-fought game Thursday night against a team that began the night tied atop the NFC West standings.The defense put the clamps down in the second half against an overmatched Seattle passing game. No big surprise there. Marshawn Lynch had a lot of success against the 49ers' run defense, but they kept him out the end zone.So it goes to reason we go to the Monday Morning Mailbag (special Friday afternoon edition) to answer questions about the 49ers' offense following the 49ers' 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park. . . How come Alex Smith is back to blowing hot and cold again? (Matt Healey)
Smith has been programmed to live in fear of making mistakes. Even before the arrival of the current coaching staff, one of the knocks on him was that he had to see a receiver wide open in order to pull the trigger.That cautious approach was a big reason he threw only five interceptions last season in 18 games, including the playoffs. But it's also a reason the offense is susceptible to sputtering along at times.And it kind of leads into the next question, too...
Where is Vernon Davis?
That question or some form of it came from several folks via Facebook and Twitter, including James Clevenger and Tom Cox.The New York Giants took Davis out of the picture last week. And the Seahawks did the same Thursday night with their coverages.If Smith sees double coverage -- or just tight single coverage -- on anyone, he is going to look to go elsewhere with the football. That was part of Michael Crabtree's frustration after the 49ers' loss in the NFC championship game to the New York Giants.It's easy to fault the play-calling as vanilla, but you can be sure that few of those short throws that Smith made Thursday were No. 1 on the progression. I don't believe the coaching staff ties Smith's hands, as much as Smith chooses to be cautious based on his own decision-making after the snap of the ball.On the touchdown drive, it's difficult to fault Smith. He checked down five times to underneath targets. Those pass plays gained 15, 11, 12, 10 and 12 yards.According to Pro Football Focus, on pass attempts of 10-plus yards downfield, Smith completed only 2 of 6 for 32 yards with one interception. (Randy Moss, the intended target on the interception, was a little more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage as he ran the back line of the end zone.)Seattle's physical play from their cornerbacks is the perfect defense for the 49ers' passing game. If Smith sees a receiver being held up against press coverage, he's likely going to immediately look elsewhere.There is no reason the 49ers should not have been able to make some plays in the passing game with the amount of time the 49ers' offensive line supplied for Smith on Thursday. Smith was sacked twice for minus-2 yards, but the offensive line was not responsible for any sacks or quarterback hits, according to PFF.Davis is an important part of the 49ers' offense. He's the one pass target that scares teams. Teams want to the 49ers to look elsewhere. And regardless of what defenses are doing to Davis, Smith has to find a way to give him chances.On Thursday, Davis was not targeted on any pass attempts.
Will Brandon Jacobs ever find a role in this offense? (James Guzikowski)
If either Frank Gore or Kendall Hunter is ever unavailable for a game, Jacobs would slide into the role of the backup and he might get a half-dozen touches.Right now, Jacobs is the 49ers' No. 3 running back. But he is also the No. 4 running back in line to be active for games because Anthony Dixon gets the nod ahead of him based on his value on special teams.Others asked, "Why the 49ers signed Brandon Jacobs if they aren't playing him?"The 49ers felt good about Gore and Hunter. They did not feel all that great about Dixon as the No. 3 running back, so they looked to upgrade that spot on the depth chart. The 49ers wanted to strengthen the back end of their roster. They signed Jacobs to a one-year deal to get him on the team to see if he could help.Games such as Thursday night's brutal affair with the Seahawks is a reminder of how depth is needed. Gore exited in the fourth quarter with bruised ribs. Jacobs may yet be needed for a significant role.The decision to draft LaMichael James in the second round is more difficult to explain than the signing of Jacobs. James and Hunter are similar, though Hunter is better suited as an every-down back. And Hunter figures to be around for a while.

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman/defensive end Clay Matthews Sr. passed away on Thursday, March 23rd at the age of 88. 

Matthews originally entered the NFL as a 25th round (247th overall) draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1949 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55), appearing in 45 games and registering one interception. After spending his rookie season of 1950 with the 49ers, he went on to spend two years (1951-52) in the United States Army where he served in the Korean War.

A native of Charleston, SC, Matthews attended Georgia Tech where he played guard, tackle and end while earning All-Southeastern Conference honors in 1948. In 1949, Matthews was the All-Southeastern Conference heavyweight wrestling and boxing champion at Georgia Tech.

Matthews was the first of three generations to play in the National Football League. His two oldest sons, Bruce and Clay Jr., each spent 19 seasons in the NFL. Originally selected by the Houston Oilers in the first round (9th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, Bruce was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after 14 Pro Bowl and seven First-Team All-Pro selections. Clay Jr. was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 1978 draft and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Three of Bruce’s sons, Jake, Kevin and Mike, and two of Clay Jr.’s sons, Clay III and Casey, either have spent time or currently play in the NFL. Clay III is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers and a six-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker while Jake is currently an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons after being selected in the first round (6th overall) by the team in 2014. 

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After signing with Giants, Draughn pens long thank you to 49ers

After signing with Giants, Draughn pens long thank you to 49ers

Shaun Draughn is now a member of the New York Giants, but he won't ever forget his brief stint with the 49ers. The running back posted a long thank you to the organization and its fans on Thursday:

"I want to say thank you to the @49ers for giving my family and I a place to call home, a chance to be apart of an organization with rich history, class and a passion for family and community," Draughn posted on Instagram. "You guys gave me my first EVER NFL start on November 8,2015 and I will cherish that moment and milestone forever.

"Thank you to all the support staff, cooks(man Ima miss those crispies in the morning lol Travis and the fellas) , custodians (my man Joe keep planting those spiritual seeds my brotha), equipment (Doc, Steve, Gilby, and the crew) trainers( Ferg, ryan, Laura) pastor Earl thank you so much for your time and pouring into us spiritually. Coaches(coach Tom Rathman thank you for having a high standard for your players and forcing me to get better at my craft) and to the Niner Faithful you guys are great and very passionate about your team you made this a great experience as well!! To my teammates I love y'all like brothas and thank you for welcoming me in with open arms and making it a pleasure to go to war with y'all no matter the record!!"

Draughn, 29, averaged 3.1 yards per carry over two seasons with the 49ers, totaling 459 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. 

I want to say thank you to the @49ers for giving my family and I a place to call home, a chance to be apart of an organization with rich history, class and a passion for family and community. You guys gave me my first EVER NFL start on November 8,2015 and I will cherish that moment and milestone forever. Thank you to all the support staff, cooks(man Ima miss those crispies in the morning lol Travis and the fellas) , custodians (my man Joe keep planting those spiritual seeds my brotha), equipment (Doc, Steve, Gilby, and the crew) trainers( Ferg, ryan, Laura) pastor Earl thank you so much for your time and pouring into us spiritually. Coaches(coach Tom Rathman thank you for having a high standard for your players and forcing me to get better at my craft) and to the Niner Faithful you guys are great and very passionate about your team you made this a great experience as well!! To my teammates I love y'all like brothas and thank you for welcoming me in with open arms and making it a pleasure to go to war with y'all no matter the record!! To the @nygiants I want to say thank you for allowing me to be apart of such a first class organization!! I am excited to go to work in the quest for #5 and to the Fans I can assure you, you will get my ABSOLUTE best and nothing less, put a stamp on it‼️‼️ thank you God for ALWAYS making a way!! #Proverbs3:5-6 #BigBlue #GMen

A post shared by Shaun Draughn (@shaun_draughn) on