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


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."

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.