49ers Mailbag: What's expected from Alex Smith?

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49ers Mailbag: What's expected from Alex Smith?

Rookies are scheduled to report to 49ers training camp on Saturday, July 21. The veterans show up Thursday, July 26, with the first full-squad practice slated for the next day.As we get closer to the opening of camp, we'll dig into the 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions. Let's continue with what we started Thursday with questions about the team's rookies and Dashon Goldson . . . Q: Based on what you've seen so far, is Alex Smith ready to take the next step, stay the same as last year or regress? (@kdottorres)
I appreciate the way you phrased that question -- "based on what you've seen so far."Based on what I've seen, yes, Alex Smith is ready to take the next step. The first couple practices I watched during camp, he seemed to struggle with his accuracy. Perhaps that was a result of the slight mechanical alternations he made to his throwing motion.By the time the offseason program had come to a conclusion, Smith looked to be playing on a different level than any of the other quarterbacks of the roster.I don't see any way Smith can match or do better than throwing five interceptions in 16 games. But there are other areas in which Smith and the 49ers' passing game can make dramatic improvements.RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
With a better knowledge of the offense, Smith should be able to make better pre-snap reads. His anticipation of what will happen based on the play call along with the defense (and type of pressure) should enable Smith to be more decisive and the offense to be more productive on third downs and in the red zone.Of course, the 49ers' receivers should also be better from Day 1, and that includes tight end Vernon Davis, who became comfortable with the offense late in the season.
Let there be no mistake, Smith is the player this season under the most pressure to perform this season. The contract he signed with the 49ers made it necessary for him to play well to earn a 8.5 million payout for the 2013 season.The 49ers structured the "three-year" deal in such a way that they would face only a 1 million cap hit next year if they decided to part ways with Smith rather than pay his 2013 salary. Therefore, coming off what many called his breakout season, Smith will be under more scrutiny that ever. Q: I'm not sure the 49ers improved on their major weaknesses... 3rd down coverage and interior o-line blocking. Improved only @ WR. (@mrtapout1975)
I'd argue that third-down coverage and interior offensive-line blocking were not the 49ers' major weaknesses last season.After all, the 49ers' defense ranked 11th in the NFL in third down defense. The opposition converted on 35.2 percent of third downs. But, true, the 49ers did not add any pass-rushers. Aldon Smith is slated to be an every-down player, and that could make him less effective on third downs. Their top three or four cornerbacks from a year ago will be back in the same roles, but Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver should be improved.
As far as interior offensive line, the 49ers figure Alex Boone will be a better right guard than Adam Snyder. That's why the 49ers made no attempt to re-sign Snyder. The reason the 49ers did not try Boone at guard last year is because there was not enough time to make the transition to a new position due to the lockout.

Injury report: Staley's streak of 92 consecutive starts in serious jeopardy

Injury report: Staley's streak of 92 consecutive starts in serious jeopardy

Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury, the 49ers announced on Friday.

Staley has the third-longest active streak among offensive tackles with 92 consecutive starts. Only Cleveland's Joe Thomas (156) and Oakland's Donald Penn (153) rank ahead of him on the list. Staley has not missed a game since the beginning of the 2011 season.

Coach Chip Kelly said Friday morning on his weekly show on KNBR that the 49ers have two more days of training “and then we’ll see what Joe’s status is going into the game on Sunday.”

Kelly added, “That’s kind of what we normally do with everybody. The best thing to say with Joe is he’s day-to-day. We’re hopeful, but we have two more days out on the field.”

With Staley not expected to play, the 49ers will likely shift left guard Zane Beadles to left tackle. Andrew Tiller, who started the first five games of the season at right guard, would likely start at left guard.

The 49ers expect outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to return to action on Sunday after missing five games with a high-ankle sprain, Kelly said on KNBR. Lynch is listed as questionable, along with defensive tackle Quinton Dial, who has a left elbow injury

The Jets will be without at least one starter. Right tackle Breno Giacomini was ruled out due to injuries. Brent Qvale, a third-year player from Nebraska, is scheduled to make his fifth NFL start.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

49ERS
Doubtful
T Joe Staley (hamstring)
Questionable
DT Quinton Dial (elbow)
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)

JETS
Out
RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg)
DT Steve McLendon (hamstring)
T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder)
LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle)
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
WR Jalin Marshall (concussion)
Questionable
DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)

49ers expect Aaron Lynch to return to action vs Jets

49ers expect Aaron Lynch to return to action vs Jets

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch has missed give games with a high-ankle sprain and still appears to be restricted while moving in pre-practice drills.

But 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Friday morning on his radio show on KNBR that he anticipates Lynch will be able to get back on the field Sunday against the New York Jets for just his fourth game of the season.

Kelly was asked about why the 49ers have not promoted outside linebacker Marcus Rush from the practice squad. Rush led the 49ers with six sacks in the exhibition season. His best game came against the Denver Broncos, beating former Nevada tackle Kyle Roberts for three sacks. Roberts is not on an NFL roster or practice squad.

“We haven’t had an opportunity at outside linebacker,” Kelly said. “We didn’t put Aaron on IR, and we anticipate getting Aaron back this week. So we really don’t have a spot at that position he plays.

“If we were to lose a player at outside linebacker, then we’d certainly think about activating him. But we ahven’t lost an outside linebacker, so we still have Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine and Aaron. We carry four outside linebackers on our team. Aaron’s been out for a little bit here with his ankle, but it wasn’t a season-ending injury, so we just really don’t have a spot for him.”

Lynch has one sack in three games this season. He was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. He has not returned to action since sustaining an ankle sprain in the Oct. 23 game against Tampa Bay.