49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards

49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards
August 25, 2011, 4:07 pm
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Aug. 25, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
From the day Braylon Edwards stepped foot in Santa Clara to sign a one-year, 2.1 million contract with the 49ers, he understood how important it was to foster a relationship with quarterback Alex Smith.Both Edwards and Smith are on one-year contracts. How they perform this season will determine the paths their careers take from here.Edwards and Smith knew each other a little from their interaction leading up to the 2005 NFL draft. The 49ers publicly considered both for the No. 1 overall pick. Now, they're together, forming a symbiotic relationship."We're trying to make up for lost time," Smith told the media Wednesday at the 49ers' practice facility about the extra work they're putting in together.
"But, really, (we) just kind of do something every day. Try to take a step every day. It may not be something huge, but just little things every day. Stay on top of it whether it's in the film room or out on the field or just communicating. Those are the things I think that eventually add up."
On a typical day, after most of their teammates have gone inside after practice or are lifting weights, Smith and Edwards remain on the practice field. They might talk about one or two routes. Edwards lines up, runs a pattern against a certain imaginary defense, and Smith throws to him. Again and again.They've practiced their timing on slant patterns. They've worked on back-shoulder throws. And Smith is comfortable enough, it would seem, to give Edwards a chance to make plays against tight man coverage.Smith did that Saturday against the Raiders, throwing him a pass down the sideline when Edwards wasn't able to gain much separation from Raiders cornerback Walter McFadden. Edwards made a phenomenal one-handed catch for 32 yards while McFadden's back was turned to the ball."It's not necessarily his size," Smith said. "There's a lot of other big guys who play his position. Obviously, he has the capability to make plays on the ball in the air, Braylon's got that. There's times when you get one-on-ones, it's kind of those educated risks you take, yeah, absolutely."If he's got one-on-one then you're potentially going to take that shot, because you feel good that his ability's going to protect the throw. It's going to be him or no one. You're going to give him a chance to make the play." Is no news good news? When the 49ers signed Edwards they did so fully aware that he might be suspended for a game or two for guilty plea in July for driving while intoxicated, resolving a case that stemmed from an incident in a September. Neither Edwards nor coach Jim Harbaugh has spoken with the League office about any potential suspension, both said this week.
And that leads us to our first 49ers Mailbag question . . . Q: Any indication that Crabtree is learning anything from Edwards? Seems like Braylon's setting a good example so far. (@jrl1224)
My answer: Yes, Edwards is setting an example that it's never a bad thing for a receiver and quarterback to foster a strong working relationship.Michael Crabtree is difficult to read, but I've never heard anyone criticize his work habits or preparation. However, I think it's fair to say that he did not go out of his way to spend extra time with Smith in their first two seasons together.But, perhaps, it can also be said that Smith never pressed the issue and built the kind of rapport and trust with Crabtree that could have helped both of them.For their first two seasons together, the lockers of Smith and Crabtree were on other sides of the room. Is it any coincidence that under the new locker room configuration that Smith and Crabtree are separated by just one locker (cornerback Tramaine Brock) and Edwards is two lockers down from Crabtree?Q: What's your take on Adams? Do you see him making the team? Doesn't look good right now. (@RedZoneMoss559)
My answer:Phillip Adams helped himself with a 32-yard punt return, running as if the ankle injury that ended his 2010 season was the last thing on his mind. Adams is on the bubble, but he heads into the final two weeks with a good chance to make the team as a reserve cornerback.
Carlos Rogers is the only cornerback you can pencil into the lineup as a starter. He's been bothered by a mild Achilles strain, but he should be OK for the regular season. Rookie Chris Culliver is going to make the team, though he might not be one of the active 46 players on game days.Brock and Tarell Brown look to be in very good shape for roster spots. There's some mystery with Shawntae Spencer, the veteran who has 32 consecutive starts. Coach Jim Harbaugh seems to be lukewarm on Spencer, who has not taken part in a full practice because of a hamstring strain in the month of August.There is a lot of competition, and not much separation at the 49ers' cornerback spots. Adams is still in the mix.Q: Do you HONESTLY believe Tramaine Brock can become a good 1 or 2 CB? (@CBitz15)
My answer: I'm not sure he can become a "good No. 1." But based on what I saw this summer from him, I don't doubt he's capable of becoming a starting cornerback in the NFL.He was barely on my radar when camp opened, though he made the 49ers' 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent from Bellhaven. And Brock put together a very impressive camp. I think Brock's career is wide open at this point. Can he become a good NFL cornerback? I don't see why not.Brock reminds me of Joselio Hanson, whom the 49ers signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Hanson made it onto the active roster the next year, and he has played six NFL seasons as a spot starter and valuable member of the Philadelphia secondary.Brock (5-10, 200) is bigger than Hanson (5-9, 185), and has more potential. So, yes, I HONESTLY believe Brock is fully capable of putting together a solid NFL career.Q: Will Mcleod Bethel-Thompson play any snaps during the pre-season, and do you see him as a possibility as the 3rd string QB? (@Danchez114)
My answer: I'd be very surprised if he plays Saturday night against the Texans. Alex Smith is likely to start and play into the third quarter. Then, Colin Kaepernick might finish it out.Also, at some point the 49ers want veteran Josh McCown to get onto the field for some extended playing time before making the final decision whether McCown will be the 49ers' No. 3 QB. That could come in the exhibition finale.If Bethel-Thompson is going to see action, it would be in the final exhibition game. But the 49ers must cut their roster to 80 players by Tuesday, and there's no guarantee he will even be on the roster for the final exhibition game.Bethel-Thompson will certainly not be on the 49ers' final 53-man roster. But in practices, he showed a lot of good qualities. There's a chance the 49ers could keep him around on the practice squad to see if he's capable of some good things down the road.

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