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Monday Morning Mailbag: Is Smith's finger a concern?

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Monday Morning Mailbag: Is Smith's finger a concern?

In this edition of 49ers Monday Morning Mailbag, we solicited questions from Facebook followers. Here we go . . .Q: Any details on Alex Smith's finger injury and do you see it impacting his throws this week andor on Sunday? (Steve Busichio)
On Smith's last pass attempt of Sunday's game, Bills defensive end Mario Williams hit him as he was throwing incomplete to Vernon Davis. Smith braced himself with his right hand when he hit the ground.After the game, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about Smith's finger injury."It looks like just a sprain," Harbaugh said. (Smith confirmed the injury was nothing about which to be concerned.)When asked if the finger in question was on Smith's throwing hand, Harbaugh paused a moment and then answered, "I don't think so."But, moments later, as Smith spoke to the media, it was clearly the middle finger on his throwing hand that wrapped.I'm sure when Harbaugh learned the truth -- that Smith's injury was to a finger on his quarterback's throwing hand -- the coach had to be concerned. After all, when Harbaugh spoke to the media, he was obviously under the mistaken impression Smith had a sprained finger on his non-throwing hand, right?Yeah, that's the ticket . . . Anyway, Smith's sprained middle finger should not be a hindrance when the 49ers take the field Sunday against the New York Giants.Q: As welcome as it was and great to see, why wasn't the offense really allowed to cut loose till this week bearing in mind just how great we were. (Matt Healey)
It's not necessarily a matter of play-calling or offensive philosophy, as much as it's a matter of execution.The 49ers had 38 rushing attempts on Sunday against the Bills. They attempted 25 passes. But the passes the 49ers threw were a lot more successful. Smith averaged 12.6 yards per attempt. He was able to take advantage of the opportunities unlike any other time this season.RELATED: Roman gets high marks for 49ers' record-setting displaySmith hit a play down the field to Vernon Davis early in the game. And the 49ers also got good yards-after-the-catch from others, such as Michael Crabtree.What you've seen the past two games from the Jets and Bills are defenses that, in effect, dared the 49ers to throw deep. The 49ers' offense is all about taking what's available. And what was available in the past two games are the deep balls."It's been a priority for us," Smith said Sunday on the topic of throwing deep, "and for whatever reason, I think it just came up today. Even last week week, it was a priority for us and we took some shots. There were some shots last week that didn't happen because of how they were playing. Today, they came up, we took them and were a little more aggressive."Q: Is it just coincidence, or the fact we've dominated the last two games came as the result of "Kaeper packages"? (Matt Purcell)
First off, here's a funny anecdote that Mindi Bach told me after the game. She spoke to right tackle on "49ers Postgame Live." She said Davis was very annoyed because every time Kaepernick entered the game, the Bills defensive players started yelling, "Tebow package! Tebow package!"Davis said he was offended because Kaepernick is way better that Jets' backup quarter, the power-running Tim Tebow.Anyway, yes, the 49ers have scored 79 points after the "Wolf Pack" has been introduced regularly into the 49ers' offense. Kaepernick ran four plays of offense through 3 12 quarters until mop-up time against the Jets. He opened the scoring in that game with a 7-yard touchdown run, which came on a third-and-6 play in the second quarter.On Sunday, Kaepernick was in the game for seven snaps before taking over for Smith for the final 12 snaps at quarterback. Two of those plays (a 14-yard gain by Kendall Hunter and a Kaepernick incomplete deep pass for Vernon Davis) were nullified by penalties.The other five plays consisted of three Frank Gore runs for a total of 24 yards, and two Kaepernick runs for 21 yards. So, yes, that 9.0-yard average per snap is very good.But where Kaepernick might have had an impact Sunday was with the Bills' preparation. It's impossible to measure, but Smith explains:"It's another thing that defenses are going to have to prepare for. You only have so many (practice) reps during the week to get ready. The more they have to think about, the better."

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

Snap count: 49ers' rookie running backs watch the veterans

SANTA CLARA – Rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida have made strong bids for roster spots. But on Saturday night, the 49ers wanted to see what the veterans could do.

Williams entered the game late and played only four snaps of offense. He carried once for 1 yard. Another designed run play was aborted when a Denver Broncos defensive lineman got into the backfield so quickly he forced a fumble before the handoff could occur.

Breida, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern, did not see any snaps on offense in the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said the plan all along was for Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs to see a lot of action after neither played in the exhibition opener.

“We’re trying to give them a chance to compete,” Shanahan said. “We see it in practice each day, but in games you want to see what guys do breaking through those arm tackles and see how they perform.

“We have a tough competition at back. If you rotate them every series, you don’t really give anyone a chance to show what they are. We try to do it that way. I’ve really tried to do it that way my entire career. You try to select which games you’re going to try to give guys a number of carries, so you have enough when it’s all said and done after four to try to make a decision.”

The 49ers’ run game was non-existent against the Broncos. Starter Carlos Hyde gained 26 yards on eight attempts. Bibbs managed 6 yards on four carries, while Hightower was thrown for minus-1 yard on three rushes.

In the exhibition opener last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams gained 60 yards on seven carries, while Breida rushed for 40 yards on 11 tries. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher (15 carries, 89 yards) in the exhibition opener, was limited to just four plays on special teams.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

OFFENSE
Quarterback – *Brian Hoyer 24, C.J. Beathard 20, Matt Barkley 4
Running back – *Carlos Hyde 20, Tim Hightower 14, Kapri Bibbs 10, *Kyle Juszczyk 6, Tyler McCloskey 5, Joe Williams 4
Wide receiver – Louis Murphy 23, *Marquise Goodwin 18, Kendrick Bourne 15, Jeremy Kerley 13, Aldrick Robinson 13, Victor Bolden 12, Trent Taylor 11, *Pierre Garçon 10, DeAndre Carter 5
Tight end – George Kittle 22, Garrett Celek 12, Logan Paulsen 10, *Vance McDonald 9, Blake Bell 5, Cole Hikutini 3
Offensive line – Erik Magnuson 25, *Trent Brown 24, *Zane Beadles 23, *Daniel Kilgore 23, *Brandon Fusco 23, *Joe Staley 23, JP Flynn 21, Tim Barnes 21, Garry Gilliam 21, John Theus 20, Darrell Williams 4, Norman Price 4, Andrew Lauderdale 4, Andrew Gardner 4

DEFENSE
Defensive line – D.J. Jones 38, Leger Douzable 36, Pita Taumoepenu 31, *Chris Jones 30, Quinton Dial 23, *Arik Armstead 23, *Earl Mitchell 19, Solomon Thomas 16, *Tank Carradine 15, Noble Nwachukwu 15, Elvis Dumervil 8
Linebacker – Dekoda Watson 33, Brock Coyle 30, Ray-Ray Armstrong 30, Ahmad Brooks 30, *Eli Harold 23, *Reuben Foster 23, *NaVorro Bowman 23, Shayne Skov 22, Alex Calitro 21
Cornerback – Asa Jackson 40, Ahkello Witherspoon 39, Keith Reaser 30, Will Davis 22, *Dontae Johnson 20, *Rashard Robinson 20, K’Waun Williams 11
Safety – *Lorenzo Jerome 37, Jaquiski Tartt 33, *Eric Reid 23, Don Jones 22, Vinnie Sunseri 19, Adrian Colbert 19
* -- Starter

SPECIAL TEAMS
D.Jones 18, Bell 17, Taumoepenu 17, DeAndre Smelter 16, Jerome 16, Celek 11, Watson 11, Coyle 10, Sunseri 10, Armstrong 10, Skov 9, C.Jones 9, Tartt 9, Bradley Pinion 8, Calitro 8, Colbert 8, Paulsen 8, Jackson 8, Kyle Nelson 7, Bolden 7, Bibbs 6, Witherspoon 6, Reaser 5, Dial 5, Davis 5, Raheem Mostert 4, Harold 4, Carter 4, Johnson 4, D.Williams 4, D.J. Jones 4, Robbie Gould 3, Robinson 3, J.Williams 3, Flynn 3, Douzable 3, Carradine 3, Nwachukwu 2, Price 2, Taylor 2, Kerley 2, Barnes 2, Theus 2, Magnuson 2, McCloskey 2, Armstrong 2, Foster 2, Reid 2, Bowman 2, Mitchell 2, Nick Rose 1, Matt Breida 1, Tim Patrick 1, Thomas 1, Bourne 1, Lauderdale 1, Brooks 1

DID NOT PLAY
QB Nick Mullens, WR Aaron Burbridge, DB Will Redmond, DB Jimmie Ward, DB Prince Charles Iworah, LB Sean Porter, LB Aaron Lynch, G Joshua Garnett, DL Ronald Blair, DL DeForest Buckner

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

Potential big play slips from Hoyer's grasp during preseason loss to Broncos

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw the ball well enough to impress the Denver Broncos’ defensive backs during the 49ers’ two joint practices.

While he hit most of his passes on Saturday night, it was one that slipped away that summarized the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Broncos in the second exhibition game for both teams.

Hoyer had plenty of time to throw and saw a potential big play unfolding as he started to throw to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. But the ball popped out of Hoyer’s right hand as he began to throw.

“I was getting ready to rip it to Kerley,” Hoyer said. “He had a double-move route, and I thought he was going to win. I went to throw it. And I was going to throw it hard, and literally, I think my arm even went forward and I was looking around, ‘What happened to the ball?' "

The ball ended up loose on the ground, where Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris recovered.

“My quarterbacks coach asked me, ‘When’s the last time that happened to you?’ Hoyer said. “Maybe a few years ago in practice, that happened one time. I never had that happen in a game. It’s the worst feeling. You go to throw the ball and you’re looking, and all of a sudden, you look around and you have no idea where it is.”

Hoyer and the 49ers passing game was sharp during two practice sessions with the Broncos during the week, prompting All-Pro defensive backs Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to praise the Hoyer, as well as coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Hoyer completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 89 yards under the lights of Levi's Stadium. He threw an interception when 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin juggled the ball and Denver defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris wrestled the ball away from him as they tumbled to the ground.

“There weren’t any reads on his 11 attempts that I was upset with,” Shanahan said of Hoyer.

“(On) his pick, Marquise has to catch that ball. He threw it to him. That keeps the drive alive. He just didn’t catch it clean and the DB made a good play. I wish Brian could’ve played longer to get a chance to get into some sort of rhythm.”

In the game, the 49ers committed 11 penalties for 86 yards and turned the ball over five times. Denver scored 27 points off those turnovers.

“I don’t think any of us should be pleased right now,” Hoyer said. “When you put the defense in that situation, regardless of whether it’s a regular-season game or a preseason game, you should feel displeased with the performance.”