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

July 13, 2012, 5:25 pm
Share This Post

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.